Recent Crash Reminds Us of the Dangers of Cell Phones

For those of you who haven’t been following this, talking on a cell phone while driving is worse than driving drunk. Don’t believe that? Well, here’s another recent example:

Yesterday, a young woman driving along I-84 near Baker City, OR was distracted by her phone, and collided with the concrete barrier TWICE before crashing (and injuring herself and her passenger).

According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting is six times more dangerous than intoxicated driving. And several other studies have found that reactions times are slower and drifting is more common in those texting than those driving drunk.

Despite an overwhelming number of facts, crashes, and deaths, many people are still talking on their cell phones and texting while driving. And for those of you thinking, “It’s okay – I use Bluetooth or a hands-free device,” you need to know: hands-free calls are still VERY distracting.

We’ve written extensively, and early, about the dangers of driving while distracted, whether by talking on the phone, texting, or otherwise. But how do we use this information to protect the innocent?

When someone has been seriously injured, an injury with lifelong effects, there is often not enough insurance money to cover the necessary care. For example, a person who is paralyzed, or who becomes paraplegic in an accident may require millions of dollars of medical care over his or her lifetime. Many drivers in Oregon only have $25,000 of insurance. This is not even enough to cover a broken arm, let alone a lifetime of care.

One of our jobs is to get to the bottom of who is responsible. And if a serious injury has resulted, we hope that the person at fault (or their employer, if they are driving on the job) has high insurance coverage too.

For example, International Paper Company settled a lawsuit for $5.2 million when one of their employees, driving over 70 m.p.h. while using her company-issued cell phone, rear-ended her, resulting in injuries severe enough to cause an amputation. There have been several similar cases where companies have been held responsible for their employees’ cell usage that resulted in a crash.

So if someone is injured by a driver who is talking on his or her cell phone (or texting), one of the early questions to ask is, “Who were they talking to?”

If they were talking for work – and particularly if the person’s workplace encourages or requires them to talk while driving – then the workplace may be partly responsible for the Oregon cell phone car accident. And if the workplace has a million dollar insurance policy, then the person who was severely injured in that crash may be able to get the medical care he or she needs from that insurance policy.

Usually, however, the only person responsible is the driver. Even though there have been several attempts to hold individuals responsible for talking on the phone to someone who is driving, it can be difficult to show that the other person is liable. There have even been attempts to hold cell phone companies responsible for not doing enough to educate drivers about the dangers of cell phones.

The point is, you need to know that cell phone usage is dangerous and you could be hurting yourself, your employer, and everyone on the road by texting or talking on the phone while driving.