The ability to send text messages on smartphones and other mobile electronic devices has connected the world in a way that few of us could imagine only a few short years ago. However, this game-changing advancement in technology also has brought a new level of danger to our highways for every driver, regardless of whether they are behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler, passenger van, or family sedan.
According to the U.S. government’s website dedicated to distracted driving, more than 3,000 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in vehicle crashes during 2014 that involved distracted drivers. While those numbers will shock many people, the outcome could have been much worse when you consider that more than 660,000 drivers are using electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle at any given time during the day, according to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey.
Although texting and driving is illegal in Texas school zones and at least 60 local governments have enacted ordinances aimed at curbing texting and driving, such as Austin, the Lone Star State is one of only six in the U.S. that does not at least ban texting while behind the wheel. For the most part, Texas politicians largely have resisted the push to implement such a law for several years even though a few proposed measures made it past the preliminary stages during the most recent legislative session.
One part of this conversation that you often don’t hear about is how texting and driving has become a key element in auto crash cases of every kind, including those involving buses, semis, and other heavy trucks. Last year, authorities revealed that the driver of a school bus in Tennessee had been receiving and sending texts prior to a crash that killed two students, a teacher’s aide and the driver himself. But for the ability of investigators to search the driver’s cell phone records, we may never have learned what caused this fatal crash.
If you are involved in a car wreck, regardless of whether it involves a tractor-trailer, passenger car or company vehicle, it is crucial to find out whether texting and driving was the cause. Even if the streets are filled with other cars, it often can be difficult to find witnesses, which means the determination of who was at fault will depend largely on whose story is more believable in the eyes of law enforcement. But when you can prove that the other driver was distracted by their mobile phone or another device, the proof is undeniable. When I’m handling a case involving a vehicle crash, one of my first questions is whether the other driver was using their cell phone. With court permission, we often are granted access to cell phone records so we can determine whether distracted driving played a role. In other instances, we have brought in experts on cell phone technology to find out the same information when other records were not available.
Texting and driving is not smart and, for safety’s sake, there should be a blanket law covering every state that would prevent any driver from picking up their phone while behind the wheel. Until then, we will continue to see more wrecks caused by distracted driving and more people being held liable for causing those wrecks based on their own cell phone records.