The legal consequences of distracted driving are becoming increasingly more severe. This week, a New Hampshire woman formally appealed her conviction for negligent homicide, a charge connected to a car accident involving 2 pedestrians - and the case is expected to go all the way to the state's Supreme Court.
In June 2009, 44 year-old Lynn Dion struck 2 pedestrians, causing fatal injury to 36 year-old Genny Basset, a mother of 4. At the trial, the prosecution used Dion's cell phone records to demonstrate that she had been talking on her cell phone for nearly a half hour leading up to the accident, and that she was still talking on the phone when the collision occurred.
In defense, Dion's attorneys argued that even if she was talking on the phone, that behavior didn't justify a Class B felony charge. After being convicted, Dion was sentenced to 1 ½ to 3 years in prison. She has no other criminal record.
"People are on their phones every day, and they have no expectation for believe, if they hit someone while they're on their phone...that they could face jail time for it," said Allison Ambrose, one of Dion's attorneys, reports the Concord Monitor.
If a driver using a cell phone crashes into your car, truck, or motorcycle (or into you, as a pedestrian), that driver may have been distracted and may be responsible for paying for your medical bills, lost wages, lost benefits, pain and suffering, general damages, and damages to your car. Using a cell phone while driving can be a distraction: 25% of all car accidents are attributed to driver distraction.
There's a common belief that some drivers are better at "multi-tasking" than others, and therefore, those drivers are able to balance safe driving responsibilities and phone conversations. Similarly, many drivers believe that hands-free devices eliminate the risks of accidents caused by distracted driving. Time and time again, research has proven these beliefs false. Cognitive distraction - meaning the division of your brain's focus between more than one task - always causes performance to suffer to some degree. While eliminating physical components of the distraction (i.e. holding the phone) may help, the cognitive distraction still exists - and thus, so does the risk of a crash.
Examples of How Cell Phone Use Causes Distracted and Negligent Driving
• The driver only uses one hand on the steering wheel because she's holding the phone.
• The driver lets go of the wheel to turn on the turning signal or fails to use a turning signal at all because he's holding the phone.
• The driver looks away from the road to reach for the phone, to send or receive a text, or to make a call.
• The driver is distracted by her conversation and fails to pay proper attention to her surroundings. This danger is especially prevalent when the conversation spurs high emotions.
• The driver is distracted by a passenger's cell phone conversation, and thus fails to pay proper attention to his surroundings. Here again, this risk is increased when the conversation spurs high emotions.