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DWD: Fatal Texting Crash Yields $8.8 Million Jury Award

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that driving while distracted contributes to one in every four car crashes. By some estimates, in as many as half of all crashes (there were six million last year), cell phone use was involved.

A slight departure from Resort Torts, my campaign against DWD -“Driving While Distracted” – is an issue I am passionate about.

It’s encouraging that a jury has awarded the family of a woman killed in a car crash – believed to be caused by a texting driver – $8.8 million. But much is left to be done to keep peoples’ eyes on the road and not distracted with the myriad electronic devices they carry and those that are even built into the car.

The Miami Herald reported that during the 60-day legislative session that begins this month, Florida legislators might consider a ban on texting while driving. Such bans are already enacted in 35 states. The current proposal, described by the Herald as “pretty mild,” would make text-driving a secondary offense, meaning that a citation for it could only be issued in conjunction with another offense such as speeding or reckless driving. The ban would also apply to typing emails and instant messages. The first offense would render a $30 fine, and the second within five years would cost $60 and three points.
DWD graphic.jpg In the case of the $8.8 million verdict, text-driving appears to have again cost someone their life. In that incident, the victim was a mother of two young children. Her vehicle was struck by a 17-year-old who was driving between 61 and 69 miles per hour in a 40 mph zone, and weaving through traffic. An outgoing text on his phone was recorded two minutes before the paramedics were notified of the accident. The teenager was given a $2,000 fine and charged with speeding and reckless driving, but not vehicular homicide.

The National Transportation Board recently recommended that the Federal Government ban cell phone and all texting device use while driving. People tend to agree. Surveys reveal increasingly more people admitting to texting while driving, but the vast majority of them also say it should be illegal.