It is no secret that distracted driving is on the rise, along with the numbers of injuries and deaths attributable to distracted driving. According to the (NHTSA), approximately ten percent of all traffic fatalities are due to distracted driving. While distracted driving occurs any time the driver’s attention and/or eyes are diverted from the act of driving, texting and driving (or using one’s cell phone while driving) is the most common type of distracted driving. To combat this, NHTSA has just promulgated a new voluntary guideline applicable to smartphone and auto manufacturers.
What the Voluntary Guidelines Attempt to Accomplish
According to the guidelines promulgated by NHTSA, smartphone manufacturers and automakers are to develop technology that is able to “sense” when a smartphone user is driving a vehicle and automatically disable many of the smartphone’s functions, including the ability to send and receive text messages and browse the internet. Although some auto manufacturers have already created technology that allows cellphone users to use a touchscreen inside the car to access many of a phone’s features, the technology contemplated by the guideline does not yet exist.
Voluntary Guidelines Do Not Absolve Drivers of Responsibility
Even when enacted, the voluntary guidelines are voluntary. This means that there are no legal ramifications for automakers or smartphone manufacturers who choose not to develop and/or implement the technology contemplated by the guidelines. This means that drivers who choose to text and drive – and who cause an accident as a result – cannot bring a claim for compensation against the automaker or smartphone manufacturer for failing to follow NHTSA’s recommendation.
The NHTSA guideline is also unlikely to have any mitigating effect on a car accident defendant’s culpability. In other words, suppose a defendant-driver in a car crash case is found to be 75 percent responsible for causing a crash because he or she was texting while driving. The defendant’s percentage of fault is not likely to be reduced by any amount if the defendant attempts to argue that the car manufacturer or smartphone maker failed to comply with NHTSA’s regulation.
What if New Technology Malfunctions and Causes a Car Crash?
If the technology that is the subject of NHTSA’s voluntary guideline is developed, and this technology malfunctions, however, the entity responsible for developing and/or integrating the technology may be held responsible if the malfunction causes a crash (i.e., by causing the phone to startle the driver). In such a case, it would be the defendant-driver’s responsibility to prove the manufacturer acted with negligence and that such negligence contributed to the crash. The judge or jury would then be responsible for determining the role the manufacturer’s negligence played in causing the crash.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a distracted driving accident, contact the Costa Mesa car crash law firm of Case Barnett Law at (949) 861-2990. You or your loved one may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and losses, and our experienced legal team can assist you in obtaining the monetary damages you need to recover from your accident.