According to a press release issued by the Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania has just become the 35th state (plus the District of Columbia and Guam) to ban texting while driving. Jefferson City, Missouri car accident lawyers note that many of these same states also ban the use of a hand held cell phone while driving. We have seen an increase over the past few years of clients who have been injured in accidents where texting and talking on the phone were a causative factor.
In a sad acknowledgment of the importance of this new law, mere hours after the state legislature passed the bill 17-year-old Alexis Lynn Summers of Jefferson, PA was killed in a texting related accident. She crashed her car into a tree while trying to send a text message.
This dangerous practice has already been banned for commercial truck and bus drivers as well as any federal employees. The DOT has been running a campaign against texting for quite a while, and they have partnered with some concerned citizens-- Oprah Winfrey, Jordin Sparks, and Justin Bieber--all of whom are hoping to use their fame where it can do some real good.
The DOT's 2009 statistics showed 5,474 traffic fatalities and approximately 450,000 injuries resulting from crashes involving distracted drivers. How many involved texting is hard to say, and the numbers of distracted driving accidents are believed to be highly underestimated.
What are MIssouri's Texting and Driving Laws?
Texting while driving is currently illegal for drivers 21 and younger, but legal for the rest of us. As we have previously reported in this blog, a bill that would have banned texting for all drivers was defeated in the Missouri Senate earlier this year.
At that time, Columbia Police Department spokeswoman Latisha Stroer said distracted driving is a dangerous practice at any age.
"Anytime your eyes leave the roadway while driving, there's potential for something bad to happen," Stroer said. "We want motorists to be completely focused on the road - not on (their) cell phone, text messaging or anything else. Things happen fast, so even being distracted for a few seconds is dangerous."
Distracted Driving is Negligent Driving
If you injure someone else as a result of your inattention, you may be sued for negligence, which is the main legal principle governing fault in car crashes.
The law and society both expect all motor vehicle drivers to take "due caution" behind the wheel, and have awareness of all driving laws. Drivers are assumed to have a duty of care for public safety. Otherwise, the driver is said to be negligent. Therefore even though texting while driving is legal for anyone over 21 in Jefferson City, a texting driver may still be found negligent in a personal injury suit. In fact, most car accident cases are ruled against the negligent driver.
In the case of texting while driving, the facts are in. According to a University of Utah study, drivers on mobile phones are more impaired than drivers at .08 BAC. Another study by the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University Study showed the disconcerting result that brain power used while driving decreases by 40% when a driver listens to conversation.
As a result of these studies and more, proving negligence against a driver who caused an accident while texting is becoming easier. Of course, each case is different. If you have been injured in a Jefferson City car accident because of another driver's negligence, seek the advice of a qualified attorney.
The Jefferson City, MO law firm of Aaron Sachs and Associates offers a free introductory consultation about your accident case. Call us today for further details.
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