Keeping Up With Technology: Distracted Driving & the Law

It only takes catching a handful of television advertisements to recognize that automotive technology is ever-changing. Cars, SUVs, and other vehicles have both safety and comfort we couldn't have dreamed of even a decade ago. Sadly, cars and technology aren't always a good mix, and the law sometimes struggles to keep up with the changes.

The law is still working to adapt to mobile phones, with Florida's ban on texting taking effect only 2 months ago, even as 91% of American adults report owning a cell phone and 81% of those owners engaging in text messaging, according to a Pew research study. Still, technology has continued to move forward, a danger our Panama City distracted driving attorney was reminded of this week with a news report providing a glimpse at an upcoming hurdle for the law and threat to roadway safety.

"Computer-in-an-Eyeglass"

In a California courtroom, a woman entered a not guilty plea to charges stemming from the use of a cutting edge device behind the wheel, a moment captured by the Associated Press and shared by Yahoo's reporting service. Cecilia Abadie is one of 10,000 testers who have had the opportunity to try Google Glass before it becomes available to the public sometimes next year. Described as a "computer-in-an-eyeglass," the lightweight frames include both a camera and a transparent, thumbnail-sized display screen, the latter located above the wearer's right eye. The device responds to voice commands and can be used to access email and obtain driving directions, in addition to providing information about something the user is looking at it. Legislators in three states (Delaware, New Jersey, and West Virginia) have proposed specific legislation banning driving while using Google Glass.

Charges & Plea

In October, a patrol officer pulled Abadie over for allegedly doing 80mph in a 65mph zone. He noticed she was wearing the Google Glass device and added a charge typically given when a driver has a TV or video screen turned on in the front of a vehicle. Abadie, a software designer, appeared before a San Diego traffic court judge on Tuesday and entered not guilty pleas to both charges. Her attorney indicated that she will testify that the device was off and only turned on when she looked up at the officer (it "wakes up" when the user tilts her head upwards). From a legal standpoint, the lawyer also said he will argue the citation used for video screens is not relevant to mobile technology.

Civil Suits & Public Policy

According to Distraction.gov, distracted driving claimed 3,328 lives in 2012. Additionally, 421,000 people were injured in distracted driving accidents in 2012, a 9% increase over the prior year. Our injury law firm has seen families and individuals who have been affected by this epidemic. While legislatures work to catch up, the civil law can help. Personal injury and wrongful death claims not only compensate victims, they also send a strong policy message that distracted driving will not be tolerated. Whether it involves the latest in technology or something as tech-free as unwrapping a snack, we believe in holding people responsible for the consequences of distracted driving. Call to arrange a no-cost consultation.

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