Smartphones make it easier than ever for us to stay connected, but that enhanced connectivity can pose serious risks. In fact, cell phones have become one of the most common distractions for drivers. Drivers text messaging on their cell phones are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event compared with non-distracted drivers.
Teenagers are particularly prone to being distracted by cell phones while driving. In the United States, 35% of teenagers admit to texting while driving and 21% of teen drivers involved in fatal accidents are distracted by their cell phones. Smartphone applications fuel distracted driving. Two apps targeted at teenage audiences are particularly problematic: “Pokémon Go” and “Snapchat”.
Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game that allows players to “capture” digital creatures at real locations using their smartphones. Since its release last week, a number of car accidents caused by drivers using the smartphone app have been reported. The app has also been blamed with creating risk of personal injury because users become engrossed in the game and unaware of their surroundings; there are reports of distracted users slipping and falling, walking into traffic, and even falling off of a cliff.
A number of car accidents have also been caused by “Snapchat,” an app that allows users to share photos and videos with friends. Snapchat has a speed “filter” that enables users to share how fast they are traveling while they take photos and videos. This feature has been blamed for encouraging speeding. In Atlanta, a teen recently caused a serious car accident driving over 100 mph while using this feature. The driver of the car she crashed into suffered permanent brain trauma and has brought a lawsuit against both the teen driver and Snapchat.
It is harrowing enough to watch your child get behind the wheel of a car and drive down the street and out of sight for the first time. You worry about other careless drivers, drunk drivers and bad weather. You hope friends in the passenger seat won’t distract your child or encourage them to speed. You implore your child not to text and drive or drink and drive. Now you have a new worry – your child catching Pokémon while driving – or Snapchatting while driving. Also remember that if your child is out catching Pokémon in a car owned by you and gets into an accident and injures someone, under New York law, your liability is the same as if you were the one actually driving the car and catching Pokémon. It doesn’t matter that you weren’t there. As the vehicle owner, the law puts you in the driver’s seat and puts your child’s iPhone in your hands. Please talk to your child and make sure they understand the dangers of playing on apps while driving.
As cell phone use while driving becomes increasingly common, the chances of being involved in a car accident with a distracted driver escalate. If you or a loved one has been injured by the carelessness of another driver, please contact Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb, Green & Bagley, P.C. for a free consultation, and visit our our website at friedmanlevy.com for more information.