Mobile Phone Use and Automobile Accidents
The dangers of mobile phone use while driving are discussed widely and statistics are everywhere. We are told that seconds away from watching the road translates to driving football-length distances, and other shocking statistics. These make us aware that we shouldn’t text and drive or use our phones while driving a car, period.
Needless to say, technology is becoming more integrated. Tools that we’ve become dependent on to arrive at destinations are now apps on our phones. GPS, mileage trackers, and other time-saving devices that used to be mounted on our dashboards or stored in our glove compartments as maps and notebooks are now standard technology on smartphones. This change makes it especially hard to ignore our phones while driving, but understanding your legal responsibility may make it easier to put down your phone while driving or begin to make small changes to your driving habits that will minimize your legal risk.
It is not illegal to use a mobile phone while driving if you are over the age of 18, but it is illegal for everyone to text while driving in the State of Rhode Island. When an accident occurs, a determination will be made as to who was at fault. Rhode Island is a comparative fault state which means that different levels of fault can be applied to each party involved. If an automobile accident occurs where one vehicle hits another that is speeding, then the driver of the first vehicle may be deemed 80% at fault for hitting the second car, but the second driver may be assigned 20% fault because of the speed issue. Mobile phone use comes into play in determining fault percentage, especially if records indicate that a driver was texting and driving, or talking on the phone at the time of the accident.
Using a mobile phone while driving is a learned habit. Breaking that habit is the same as kicking junk food or quitting cigarettes. While uncomfortable at first, the reward will outweigh the difficulty of making the break once you’ve had some success. Challenge yourself to driving without reaching for your phone and adopt new techniques for helping you to succeed. Some people lock their phone in the glove box when they get into the car, while others place it on a seat out of reach while driving. There’s always the option of pulling over to check the phone in a parking lot or on a side street if you are expecting an important call or message. When assessing risk, it is important to remember that if you manage all risk that’s within your control, then unexpected risks can be minimized.
If you have been in an accident where mobile phone use was involved, it is important to consult a lawyer to discuss how to maximize your rights within your own personal situation.