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Distracted Driving Danger: There’s an App for That

texting driving teensThe nation saw an alarming increase in traffic fatalities in 2015 and the trend appears to be continuing during the current year. Last year marked the largest uptick in fatalities in 50 years, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some officials are attributing the rise – at least in part – to use of apps like Snapchat and Instagram by motorists while they are behind the wheel.

One possible problem with some of these apps is the fact that they actually encourage drivers to engage. For example, Snapchat allows vehicle operators to take and post photos recording the speed of the vehicle. Another app, Waze, gives drivers the chance to report slowdowns on the roadways or traffic accidents. Instagram entices users to post photos to the social media site, even while they are driving.

An informal study by the National Road Safety Partnership Program examined more than 70,000 Instagram posts with hashtags like #DrivingSelfie and #SelfieWhileDriving. They found the problem was most prevalent in western states like California, Nevada and Washington. However, Florida and Vermont also saw a significant number of selfie posts as well. Posts tended to go up on the weekends, which is unfortunately often a time when roadways are at their busiest.

Snapchat accidents and lawsuits

Instagram isn’t the only social media app that has been linked to traffic accidents recently. In October, a crash near Tampa, Florida, took the lives of five people. A teen in one of the cars posted a Snapchat video just prior to the crash. At that time, the car the teen was traveling in was moving at 115 miles per hour.

In 2015, a teenage driver in Atlanta who was using Snapchat while behind the wheel crashed into another vehicle, seriously injuring an Uber driver. The teen was driving more than 100 miles per hour, according to court records. A lawsuit has now been filed in the case, alleging that the speed filter featured in Snapchat actually encourages drivers to go faster in order to win recognition through the app.

Also in 2015, a study was conducted by Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students against Destructive Decisions (SADD). Researchers used both in-person focus groups and surveys to collect information on the driving habits of 11th and 12th graders across the country. The study found that two of the apps most likely to distract teen drivers were Instagram and Snapchat. Teen drivers make up a significant percentage of drivers involved in fatal accidents, increasing concern that these distractions could be impacting some of the most vulnerable drivers on the road today.

Liability in distracted driving accidents

The lawsuit filed after the 2015 crash in Atlanta raises questions about liability in distracted driving accidents. While liability can be placed on another driver in these accidents, this lawsuit in Atlanta is attempting to hold Snapchat liable for the crash, focusing on the speed filter feature of the app. It will remain to be seen at this point whether a Georgia judge determines the app manufacturer can be held responsible for a feature that might encourage some users to drive at excessive speeds.

If you are the victim of a distracted driving accident of any kind, it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible. If the other driver is found responsible for the accident, you may be entitled to monetary damages for medical bills, lost wages and other non-economic losses.

The Ellis Injury Law firm offers sound legal advice for those who have been harmed by distracted or negligent drivers. Contact us today at 1-800-INJURED for a free case evaluation with veteran personal injury attorneys in Los Angeles.