Is Distracted Driving Always Just The Driver’s Fault?

On December 24, 2014, in Texas, James and Bethany Modisette, like thousands of other Americans in the 21st century, found themselves at the mercy of negligence. While James was driving his family, he slowed their car to 20 mph as congestion ahead of them dropped traffic speed to a near crawl. Despite the Modisettes doing the sensible thing and slowing down to accommodate for a traffic jam, this didn’t help them at all when a 20 year old driver right behind collided into their car at 65 mph, mortally injuring five year old Moriah, who ultimately died of her injuries shortly after arriving at the hospital.

The culprit for the injury was an Apple iPhone, or, more specifically, the driver using Apple’s “Facetime” software to have a video call that was more important to take than it was to pay attention to the road. This, sadly, is about as text-book as you can get when it comes to a wrongful death due to negligence on the part of a driver.

However, this sad story goes a step further. The Modisettes, realizing that it was, once again, people using smartphones that led to yet another driving accident decided not to let Apple off the hook on this. They started a lawsuit alleging that the Facetime telecommunication software is, itself, a product of neglect, as Apple has the technology to detect when a person is driving, but chose not to implement any safety measures to prevent people from using the software while driving.

Do We Blame A Choice Or An Enabler?

This brings up an interesting legal problem for an auto accident lawyer. The Modisette case against Apple essentially contended that it is Apple’s responsibility to control human behavior with regards to smartphone use because humans themselves cannot be trusted to use smartphones responsibly. The lawsuit, in effect, is saying that Apple is at fault for leaving the choice of using Facetime in the hands of people that aren’t capable of making a responsible choice. Apple is legally obligated to make that choice for them, and take control away from people, and if they’re not willing to do that, they must pay the consequences.

While it’s easy to argue that people should never have their freedom taken away from them, the numbers themselves don’t lie. Distracted driving related accidents and fatalities are on the rise with every single year. Because distracted driving charges don’t carry the same harsh penalties as drunk driving, distracted driving has already overtaken drunk driving as the leading cause of teenage death in America. Part of this has to do with the very argument the Modisette case is making; the teen perception of a text or e-mail message is that a response is required in five minutes or less, regardless of what’s happening so teen drivers feel compelled to use their phones.

If you, or someone you know has been involved in an accident where it was clear that the other driver was using his or her phone instead of paying attention to the road, we’re the St. Pete lawyer for you. Our focus is personal injury, and car accidents are something we have a lot of experience with. If you or someone you know has been hurt because someone else just couldn’t resist looking at their phone while on the road, contact us. We can help to make things fair for you.