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Injuries Caused by a Distracted/Texting Driver

Distracted driving has become one of the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes in the United States.  According to FocusDriven (an advocacy group started by the families of victims killed by distracted drivers), up to 80% of all crashes involve some type of driver distraction.  There are many distractions to a driver, and it is our responsibility as motorists to obey the laws put into place to keep us all safe. Playing with the radio, talking on your cell phone, sending text messages or e-mails, operating your GPS system, reading, yelling at your children or applying make-up could all potentially lead to an accident caused by the distracted driver.  Distracted driving causes crashes involving passenger cars, trucks, tractor trailers and buses.  If you have been injured as a result of the negligence of a distracted driver, you may need an experienced personal injury attorney to help you obtain maximum compensation for your losses.

Among all of the causes for distractions, using a cell phone while driving, particularly for sending and reading text messages, is by far the most dangerous.  In fact, cell phone use is a factor in about 1 in every 4 motor vehicle accidents, according to the National Safety Council (“NSC”).  With cell phone use growing every year, the use of cell phones while driving has also increased.  Evidence shows that at any given time, about 9% of the motorists on the road are talking on their cell phones, making them four times more likely to be involved in a crash.  Surveys of teenaged drivers ages 16-19 by the U.S. Department of Transportation reveals that approximately 50% of teens (our youngest and least-experienced drivers) admit to texting while driving.  A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, indicates that texting while driving may make a person up to six times more likely to cause an automobile crash than driving while intoxicated would.

The NSC “white paper” regarding the brain distraction that occurs during cell phone use while driving has references to more than 30 different scientific studies and reports that show that the brain is simply not capable of safely multitasking with driving and cell phone use - - even with hands-free devices.  Still think that it’s okay to drive distracted and text and drive?  Even if you are still not swayed by the overwhelming evidence of safety risks, most states are, and they have endeavored to reduce fatalities and injuries caused by distracted driving with tougher legislation meant to punish distracted drivers.

To help stop this deadly behavior, many states, including the Commonwealth Virginia, have enacted laws into place that make texting (or using e-mail, or surfing the web, etc.) while driving a primary offense. This means that the police can pull you over if they suspect that you are texting while driving. The current law in the Commonwealth of Virginia, found in Code of Virginia § 46.2-1078.1 (titled “Use of handheld personal communications devices in certain motor vehicles; exceptions; penalty”), states:

A. It is unlawful for any person to operate a moving motor vehicle on the  highways in the Commonwealth while using any handheld personal communications device to:

1. Manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person; or
2. Read any email or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored within the device nor to any caller identification information.

Washington was the first state in the United States to pass a texting while driving ban in 2007. Presently, 44 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands all ban text messaging for all drivers. All but five of those states and territories have primary enforcement, as discussed above. Of the six states without a ban on texting for all drivers, four of them prohibit text messaging by novice drivers and three of the six prohibit school bus drivers from texting

As you can see, anti-texting laws that apply to drivers are clear and to the point – you cannot use e-mail, text or the internet on your phone to communicate with others while driving.  One texting and driving issue that many people have not considered is that even if you are not driving, you could still be held responsible for causing an accident.  How is that possible, you wonder?  If you send text messages to someone you know is driving a car when you send the message, you know they will probably read your text, and they end up causing an accident, you could be found negligent and responsible for any and all injuries caused by the person you texted - - even if you were miles and miles away in the safety of your own home.  This is sometimes referred to as “third-party texting liability.”  This area of the law is new, however it is likely to continue to develop in this direction if drivers refuse to obey the law and continue to text and drive.  The Halperin Law Center recently obtained a $1,000,000 settlement in a texting while driving case that involved both first and third prty texting liablity.  Read our blog for a more in depth discussion of third-party texting liability.

If you have been seriously injured or a loved one has been killed in an accident due to distracted driving, the personal injury attorneys at The Halperin Law Center have the knowledge and experience necessary to pursue all avenues of justice and compensation for you. Contact the Halperin Law Center at 804-527-0100 or contact us by e-mail to discuss your potential claims in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with an attorney.


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