In 2017, Gabriela Torga, then 23 years old, was driving just after 5:00 in the morning when she veered from the left lane to the right shoulder. She overcorrected, slid counter-clockwise, hit the median and then slammed into a tree. She did not survive the crash. No one can definitively say whether Ms. Torga's cell phone was connected to the crash, but police say when the accident occurred, her phone was on and open to SnapChat and she was driving 55 mph in a 45 zone.
Over the past years, various administrations have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns alerting the public of the many dangers of distracted driving. Talking on the phone isn't the only problem anymore, with just about everything having an app counterpart on phones and many having a hands-free option. It has become apparent that the urge to check a phone is almost irresistible, especially to younger drivers, and contributes to a staggering amount of accidents. It should also be noted that about half of all traffic related fatalities involve the lack of a seat belt, and a third involve a party inhibited by drugs or alcohol.
Undoubtedly, technology has changed the world over the last few decades. An area that has created one of the biggest concerns is cell phones, particularly smart phones, and their use by drivers while operating a vehicle. Along with cell phones, there are numerous applications that can be used by drivers when behind the wheel of a car that add to the dangers such as: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, fantasy sports, email, or using the phone's GPS capabilities. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, roughly ten percent (10%) of the nationwide crashes in 2013 were caused by distracted drivers, most of which were in conjunction with cell phone usage.
Fatalities caused by drivers in traffic collisions, crashes, and other incidents have risen to a rate not seen in fifty years. Estimates from the National Safety Council reveal deadly crashes rose by nearly eight percent in 2015, claiming the lives of roughly 38,000 people. However, many groups, which include federal officials and state and local leaders, do not want these incidents referred to as "accidents" anymore. These groups feel the word trivializes the most common cause of traffic collisions: human error.
It is speculated that the United States has the world's worst problem with distracted driving. The past few years have shown a major increase in distracted driving accidents, with approximately 3,300 fatalities each year. The biggest distraction is texting while driving, which results in 500,000 injuries or deaths per year. As a result, personal injury lawsuits are on a rise. For example, a wrongful death lawsuit was recently filed in California after an Uber driver who was on the phone hit a mother and her daughter while they were crossing the street.
Dexter Culclager, the widower of Yakel Culclager, brought a lawsuit against the driver of a Peterbilt truck and several other companies involved in the death of his wife and step-children. Mr. Culclager filed a $10 million personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit. Along with the truck driver, Judson Humphries, Mr. Culclager sued General Motors, Hobit Express, Sunteck Transport Group, Sunteck Transport Co., and the service shop that checked Mrs. Culclager's 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe prior to the incident.
Distractions play a larger role than previously thought in car accidents and were responsible for about six of every ten moderate to severe crashes, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
According to a recent study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, dialing, texting or reaching for a cellphone while driving raises the risk of a crash or near-miss. The risk of a crash among young drivers increased more than sevenfold if they were dialing or reaching for a cellphone and fourfold if they were sending or receiving a text message. The risk also rose if they were reaching for something other than a phone, looking at a roadside object or eating.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a new survey shows that Americans continue to use electronic devices while driving, despite warnings that it causes their own driving to deteriorate and can lead to crashes, injuries, and even death. The survey shows that at any given time, there are more than 600,000 drivers using a cell phone or manipulating some other electronic device while driving. The survey results are being released at the start of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
In Morristown, New Jersey, the Daily Record, and now USA Today, is reporting on a lawsuit that was filed against Shannon Colonna for causing an auto collision - when Colonna was not in any vehicle involved in the crash. The lawsuit stems from a head-on collision between David and Linda Dover and Kyle Best. The Dovers were on a motorcycle when Best veered head on into them, causing each to lose a leg as a result of the incident. Best pleaded guilty earlier this year for careless driving, failure to maintain a single lane, and using a hand-held cellphone while driving. The suit against Colonna claims that she knowingly sent text messages to Best, which caused and contributed to Best's collision with the Dovers.