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New Guidelines Proposed to Keep Drivers Safe from Distraction

Woman distracted while driving

The prevalence of serious accidents caused by distracted drivers continues to rise, despite widespread public understanding of the seriousness of the issue and increasingly stiff penalties in states across the country for violations of laws barring distracted driving. In order to address this growing issue, federal roadway safety legislators have written guidelines for mobile phone makers, instructing them in how to create a less-distracting phone interface for those who are behind the wheel. One family has taken legal action against a cell phone manufacturer whom they allege could and should have done more to prevent distracted driving crashes.

2015 was the first time in 50 years that more people died in traffic accidents than in the year before, and one of the causes for this spike was the rise in crashes caused by distracted driving. Nationwide, the rate of fatal crashes where at least one party involved was distracted at the time of the accident rose by 9%, constituting 8% of all traffic fatalities. Studies done by groups such as the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the National Safety Council believe that the true share of crashes caused by a distracted driver is possibly two to three times higher, but that the difficulty in identifying when a crash was caused by a distraction coupled with drivers’ reluctance to admit that they were distracted results in an artificially low number.

In order to address the rising toll of distracted driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests that improvements in the design of mobile phone software could help. The NHTSA’s guidelines on mobile phone design suggest that phones should be made capable of connecting with the built-in entertainment systems in vehicles, and if this is impossible, they should come with a “driver mode.” The NHTSA proposes that this setting would turn on automatically when a car is shifted into “drive” from “park” and eliminate the driver’s access to certain applications while the car is in motion, such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. The phone would also be unable to play videos while in motion, and the driver could not enter text manually.

One family in Texas believes that Apple’s inability to install a form of driver mode on its phones led to the death of their daughter, and they recently filed a lawsuit against the company. The family lost their five-year-old child to a crash with a driver who was carrying on a phone call on the FaceTime application when he crashed into the family’s car. The family claims in its suit that Apple patented software which would disable the FaceTime application while one of its iPhones was in a moving car, but that it nevertheless failed to install the feature on its phones. The family claims that, by failing to take the reasonable measure of disabling FaceTime in order to prevent injury accidents, Apple failed to uphold a duty to the public, and owes the bereaved family money damages. Apple has not yet responded to the lawsuit.

If you have been injured in a crash with a distracted or careless driver in Florida or Alabama, find out if you’re entitled to money damages for your injuries by contacting the experienced, knowledgeable, and effective personal injury lawyers at Whibbs Stone Barnett for a consultation, at 1-888-219-4561, with offices in Pensacola, Ft. Walton Beach, and Fairhope, Alabama.