California has recently enacted a new law that prohibits drivers from holding onto their phones. This means that regardless of what you might be using your phone for, simply having it in your hand is against the law. Whether you are texting, talking, or using a navigation system, you are no longer allowed to have a cell phone in your hand while you are driving.
Having said that, you can still use your phone; you just can’t have it in your hand. So, if you have your phone set up to work hands-free, that’s okay. It is still legal to have your phone mounted on your dashboard or sitting in the seat next to you, and you can even talk on it and listen to driving instructions on a map application, as long as you don’t pick the phone up and hold it.
If you are caught violating this new ban, then you may end up paying $20 for your first offense, and your fines will be larger with each further offense. If you are in an emergency response profession and using your cell phone for this purpose, then you are exempt.
Could Apple be Required to Lock Drivers Out of Apps in California?
The Los Angeles Superior Court has recently seen a class action lawsuit filed against Apple, to determine whether or not Apple should be held liable for auto accidents that have resulted from distracted driving behaviors, in which the distracted driver was either texting or using an iPhone app. The plaintiffs are requesting that the company stop selling the iPhone 6 in California until they have added a safety feature that will lock people out of using apps or using their text messaging service when they are driving. The technology required for this was developed in 2008, and the patent was granted to Apple for that technology in 2014.
However, there aren’t any iPhones that make use of this technology, and that’s what people are trying to change. The plaintiffs also want the company to be ordered to update the phones of people who already have them, so that even these will be equipped with the safety app.
What Started This Class Action Lawsuit Against Apple?
The incident that started this class action lawsuit against Apple involved a California woman who was injured in a rear-end collision, caused by a driver who was distracted by their iPhone. Another rear end accident that got involved with the courts occurred prior to this one when a 5-year-old child was killed by a Santa Clara County driver who was using his iPhone to Facetime.
There is no doubt that distracted driving has become a much bigger problem as smartphones have become something that everybody has, and plenty of people use while driving. Not only are these incidents caused by the distraction of texting, but apps that allow drivers to play games, Facetime, and use complex navigation systems. At any given time, there are approximately one and a half million individuals in the United States using their smartphones to text while driving, and creating the perfect conditions for a terrible distracted driving accident.
What About Laws that Ban Distracted Driving and Cell Phone Use?
While many states have laws that prohibit the use of cell phones while driving, such as the latest California law that prohibits any driver from holding a phone while their vehicle is in motion, these laws can be very difficult to enforce. The police might not be able to see the cell phone in the driver’s hand, and the driver’s attempts to hide the fact that they are using a cell phone from the police can make them even more dangerous on the road. When drivers know that they can face serious consequences for texting or using apps while driving, they are motivated to hide it if they continue to do so. Then, they are dividing their attention between driving, using the cell phone, and keeping an eye out for police.
Further, any driver who is aware of the law is motivated to lie when they are asked if they were using a cell phone while driving. When an auto accident occurs, they may be able to put their phone away before law enforcement arrives. If the other driver happened to notice that the at-fault driver was on their phone, then they may make the accusation, prompting an investigation, but then there are the issues with laws associated with obtaining access to the driver’s phone so that it can be very difficult to prove anything.
Why Hasn’t Apple Started Using This Potentially Lifesaving Technology?
For many people, it may seem like the obvious and moral thing to do for Apple to start using this potentially lifesaving technology in their iPhones. Yet, the plaintiffs, in this case, are arguing that Apple has chosen not to do so out of the fear that people would simply stop purchasing their iPhones and switch over to Android models to avoid the lock-out technology.
Having said that, if the plaintiffs win this case, then the ruling could end up affecting Android phones, too, and any other device that might cause a person to be distracted while driving. Once one company is successfully sued for a given action or lack of action, the company’s competitors know that they can also be sued for the same thing.
There are already guidelines in place, set up by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) in 2016 that encourage vehicle and cell phone manufacturers to start installing these kinds of safety features, locking people out of various smartphone features when they are driving, but the guidelines are currently not mandatory. If this case against Apple is successful, then more and more companies might start using this kind of safety technology, and we might see the number of injuries and deaths from distracted driving drop tremendously.
Part of the issue with this kind of distracted driving is that people develop habits that can be hard to break. If they are forced out of their iPhones and associated apps, then they won’t have any choice but to break those habits, and the roads will likely be a lot safer because of it.
Have You Been Injured in an Accident with a Distracted Driver?
If you have been injured by a distracted driver in California, you’ll want to know more about your legal options and resources for pursuing a claim against the at-fault driver or even the company that failed to implement this kind of safety technology. Call the determined California auto accident lawyer at The Sargent Firm Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation and learn more about your legal options.