A recent Bloomberg report states that “over the past two years, after decades of declining deaths on the road, U.S. traffic fatalities surged by 14.4 percent.” The report attributes the dramatic increase to distracted driving, particularly the practice of sending and receiving texts, tweets, Instagram and other interactions social media, not just talking on the phone.
In the legal world, we might refer to technology that causes distracted driving an “attractive nuisance” for adults. “Attractive nuisance” is an age-old legal theory that makes a property owner responsible for injuries to children even if they are trespassing, if the injury results from a hazardous condition that is likely to attract children who may not appreciate the risk from the condition. Think of an abandoned tree house comprised of rotting wood, exposed rusty nails, etc.
When it comes to distracted and driving hazards, smartphones are not the only culprits. A recent AAA study reveals that car manufacturers are building an unprecedented level of attractive nuisances for adults into the dashboards of their vehicles in the form of infotainment and GPS navigation systems. Although an increasing number of these features are disabled when the car is in motion, many are not. The fact that attention-diverting technology is built into the dashboard of a vehicle and usable while in motion, may provide a false sense of security or safety in using the technology while the vehicle is in motion.
Employers with employees that spend time on the road generally have policies prohibiting the use of smartphones and other mobile devices while operating motor vehicles while on the job. Employers should also take the AAA’s findings and recommendations into account to ensure that their policies account for all forms of distracted driving, not simply those related to mobile devices.
Lesson Learned: Lawyers for victims of such accidents always go to the deep pocket and the deep pocket rarely is the individual employee. Forewarned is forearmed.