Most states in the U.S. have acknowledged the “epidemic” of distracted driving and established some legislation aimed at reducing the unnecessary consequences including property damage, injuries, and even death. The majority of the accidents involve the usage of mobile devices while operating a vehicle. This which should come as no surprise because many people are using their devices constantly.
In the state of Connecticut, data shows over a 30% rise in vehicle crashes from 2011 to 2016. Connecticut has recently had two of their first distracted driving lawsuits come to a conclusion. In one case, a couple from New Britain received a $1.3 million settlement. In a separate case, a Torrington plaintiff was awarded $1.4 million by a jury.
Inaccuracy of Distracted Driving Crash Data
In 2015, the number of fatalities stemming from usage of electronic devices was officially three, and rose to five in 2016. In addition, dozens of cases that were “possibly linked” or “suspected of” being caused by drivers using mobile devices occurred. The problem with the data is that it is inherently flawed. The majority of accidents are obviously unexpected and sudden, so unless a witness specifically views a driver using a device at the time of the crash, it may not be classified as related to distracted driving.
Those who cause accidents from driving while distracted are unlikely to “volunteer” information that they were distracted by a mobile device. Some common indicators that accident investigators say could suggest distracted driving include that there was no evidence that the driver used the brakes, such as skid marks, found at the scene. However, this is not a definitive indication of distracted driving, as it is possible that the driver fell asleep.
Changes in Court & Accident Site Reporting
In January, the state implemented a change that allows plaintiffs to specifically ask a defendant if (at the time of the accident) they were making a call, sending a text, etc. This involves having the driver clarify under oath if they were using a mobile device at the time and could potentially lead to obtaining access to the official phone activity records to prove use of a mobile device at the time.
Safety officials agree that drivers are continuing to use their mobile devices. Many survey respondents believe they can text safely without causing an accident. In January of 2015, the crash reporting form that officers complete was revised to include options concerning distracted driving. In efforts to heighten awareness, the state began a “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” promotion.
Those found to be using a phone or other electronic device while driving face a $150 fine for their 1st offense. This penalty rises to $300 and then $500 for subsequent violations. Based on the potential for serious injury and death, many have encouraged legislative increases on penalties. A bill was introduced last year for this purpose; however, it was not voted on. Making the penalties for distracted driving equivalent to reckless driving would likely act as a deterrent to use of a mobile device while driving.