Distracted Driving – A Source of Liability for Drivers

We have all seen them on the road.  Drivers with one hand on the steering wheel and another hand on their cell phones.  These drivers represent a serious hazard on the road and new statistics reveal the risks.  Pokémon Go only increased this risk, as the new app encourages players to capture Pokémon while traveling to different locations.

Recent estimates reveal that over 3000 people a year are killed in the United States from distracted drivers.  California has recently suggested a ban on playing Pokémon games while driving and other states may follow soon.

A recent study by State Farm Insurance showed that 97% of all drivers now have smart phones. Some 36% of drivers text while driving (as of 2015), up 5 percent since 2009.  The younger the driver, the more likely he or she is using the cell phone while driving.

Researchers at the University of Houston claim that such distracted driving causes drivers to shut down their “sixth sense.” They point to an areas of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex, which causes the jitters when drivers, who are distracted, must return to their driving tasks.

In Virginia driver are now precluded from texting while driving.  The fine is $125 for the first offense and 250 for subsequent offenses.  “Other states like New York ban the use of any cell phone while driving.  Virginia has not gone down that road yet, but we can expect a strengthening of these laws as local governments realize the serious risk that such activities pose for drivers,” explains McLean personal injury lawyer, Jeffrey J. Downey.  Drivers who text and drive also expose themselves to potential punitive damage claims as driving as texting could be construed as reckless conduct in Virginia, which provides for the recovery of punitive damages.  There is a $350,000 dollar cap on punitive damages in Virginia.

As Virginia law recognizes punitive damages for drunk driving, it may also recognize such claims where drivers are texting at the time they get into an accident.  For more information about liability for distracted driving, contact the law Office of Jeffrey J. Downey, 8270 Greensboro Drive, Suite 810, McLean, VA, 22101, Phone 703-563 7318.