Distracted Driving has Tragic Consequences for Connecticut Man

While tying his sneakers and stretching before a Saturday morning run in late March 2012, a 44-year-old Connecticut man did not know his life would end during the run he was about to take because of a cellphone. Sadly, though, that is exactly what happened.

During his jog, the runner was struck by an SUV driven by a 16-year-old girl. While it is unclear as to what specifically the driver was doing with her phone (dialing, texting or checking email), police found evidence that the phones keypad was in use right before the distracted driving accident; an action that is not only obviously dangerous, but also against the law in Massachusetts.

Texting Ban in Massachusetts

On September 30, 2010, the Safe Driving Law became effective in Massachusetts. This law bans teen drivers, often called junior operators, from all uses of a cellphone while driving, including talking, sending and receiving text messages, or checking email. Teens caught using a cellphone face a penalty of $100 and a 60 day license suspension for a first offense, with penalties increasing for subsequent offenses.

Further, the law includes a provision that prohibits drivers over 18 years old from texting while driving, including when the vehicle is stopped in traffic. Similar to the fines for younger drivers, a first offense for sending or receiving a text message while driving comes with a fine of $100, with fines increasing for subsequent offenses. However, older drivers do not face the possibility of a suspended driver's license just for being seen texting while driving.

However, if a driver's use of a cellphone leads to an accident or accident-related injuries, the driver will face the suspension of his or her license. A first offense for negligent operation carries a 180-day suspension for younger drivers and a 60-day suspension for older drivers, the length of suspensions increase with subsequent offenses.

Many people may question why fines and suspensions are necessary for an activity as seemingly trivial as texting. However, they are an attempt to deter people from engaging in distracted driving, an activity that has consequences which are often devastating for individuals and families.

The Consequences of Distracted Driving

The danger posed by distracted driving is very real. Distracted driving encompasses any activity that diverts a driver's attention away from driving, including texting, talking on a cellphone, eating or drinking, grooming, and reading a map. What makes texting while driving so dangerous is that it causes the driver to engage in all three of the main types of distraction: manual (taking hands from the wheel), cognitive (taking mind off of the driving task) and visual (taking eyes off of the road).

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,092 people lost their lives and approximately 416,000 more were injured in distracted-driving accidents in 2010. The NHTSA further reports that 18 percent of all traffic accidents in 2010 involved distracted driving.

Monash University reports that using a hand-held device makes drivers four times more likely to be involved in accidents that injure themselves. The Virginia Tech Traffic Institute notes that texting while driving dramatically increases a driver's risk of accident, noting that a driver who sends and receives text messages while behind the wheel is 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than a driver who does not text.

Personal Injury Lawsuit

Car accidents - whether they be car-car, car-truck or car-pedestrian - can cause very serious injuries like soft tissue damage, muscle strains, broken bones, neck and back injuries, traumatic brain injuries and death. When injuries occur because of the negligent actions of a distracted driver, fines and driver's license suspensions do little to alleviate medical bills, pain or suffering. Therefore, the law allows people injured in distracted driving accidents to file personal injury lawsuits against the at-fault driver.

Through a personal injury lawsuit, an injured victim can seek compensation for medical bills, rehabilitation costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, and mechanics bills. However, if a distracted driver accidentally kills another driver, passenger or a pedestrian (like a jogger), the family of the fatally injured person can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver and seek compensation for loss of companionship, lost wages or inheritance, and funeral costs.

If you have been injured in an accident involving a distracted driver, speak with an experienced attorney about filing a personal injury lawsuit.