Distracted driving car accidents in Connecticut claim hundreds of lives and cause thousands of serious injuries each year. Apple Inc. is hoping to slash this figure by introducing a new "Do Not Disturb While Driving" feature on its iPhones. However, this may open the door to new legal issues.
Although our Connecticut car accident lawyers know that state law bans all motorists from distracted driving, it only prohibits those under 18 from using cell phones, including hands-free devices. There is no specific penalty for texting and driving when that action causes a fatality, as CGS Sec. 14-296aa only sets forth a schedule of fines, with a maximum of $500, for violating the texting-and-driving offense. Still, prosecutors could file charges for crimes not specifically related to per se to illegal cell phone use.
But while technology may have created a host of problems for road users, Apple representatives say they are trying to rectify this with a new feature called "Do Not Disturb While Driving," which they are hoping to unveil later this year.
What is the New Technology?
Starting this fall, Apple users will be able to activate a feature on their phone that will automatically notify any incoming callers or texters that you are on the road, thereby reducing or eliminating the need for the driver to respond. Those responses, the technology company reasoned, are why so many people end up peeling their eyes off the road.
Even when the feature is not connected to a certain car, it can ascertain that the vehicle is in motion, and will enable the feature. Parents will have the ability to set restrictions if they are concerned their teens may try to bypass it.
However, callers will still be able to bypass this feature if they use the word "urgent."
Why It Is Not a Silver Bullet
While the feature may certainly be a step in the right direction, it isn't likely to stop all or possibly even most incidents of distracted driving. For one thing, despite its popularity, not everyone has an iPhone, and this feature won't be available to Android users.
Secondly, the technology requires driver participation and cooperation. The issue is that drivers can easily bypass the protections because they are only optional. It has been demonstrated on a number of occasions that Apple and other phone companies have the available technology to completely stop cell phones from being in use while motorists are driving, but company officials have chosen not to do so.
Apple Faces Litigation
Apple has been sued in several instances in the last two years by distracted driving victims who allege the company's failure to install anti-distraction features, when it has the ability and knows the risk of failing to do so. In fact, Apple has obtained a patent for such technology, but has thus far declined to put it to mandatory use on any widespread scale.
One case still pending is a class action lawsuit out of California, filed under the state's Unfair Competition Law, seeking prohibition of the sales of any phone sold without the "lockout" feature to block dangerous use.
Our Connecticut injury lawyers are committed to helping victims of distracted driving in Hartford and throughout the state obtain compensation from all potential defendants in these matters.