Here at Passen & Powell, our experienced car accident attorneys have long spoken out regarding the dangers of distracted driving. We have examined the growing menace of distracted drivers on our roads, and the increasing toll it is taking on the lives and livelihoods of innocent members of the public.
Almost since driving began, there have been distracted drivers on America’s roads, endangering others. A generation ago, drivers who chose to eat while driving were the menace of the day. As technology advanced, and radios were updated, drivers changing tapes and then cds while driving were added to the list. Then came the advent of wireless technology, and with it, drivers dialing or talking on the phone, then drivers emailing and texting, all while driving a two-ton weapon. It seems that many drivers have lost track of the responsibility of being behind the wheel: stories of people doing their hair or makeup, even polishing their nails, are now the norm.
Our auto injury lawyers are dumbfounded to report that the latest story out of Key West, Florida goes beyond all that.
Last week, Megan Mariah Barnes, a thirty-seven-year-old woman, was driving to meet her boyfriend in Key West. With her in the car, and seated in the back seat, was her ex-husband.
Ms. Barnes decided that she wanted to look her best for her visit with her boyfriend. So, since she was headed for the beach, naturally she needed to shave her bikini line. She chose to do so while driving. Ms. Barnes, still in the driver’s seat, began her grooming, while her obliging ex-husband reached forward from the back seat and held the steering wheel.
As anyone with even a shred of common sense can easily predict, Ms. Barnes’ behavior led to an serious car accident. In this case, all involved were lucky – no one was killed, and only two cars were involved.
However, this obviously does not excuse Ms. Barnes’ negligent behavior. Choosing to engage in activities – whether personal grooming, communications, or otherwise – which divide or divert the driver’s attention from the road, or keep the driver’s hands occupied, is negligence, plain and simple. When these activities lead to deaths, which they often do, the distracted driver is also liable for wrongful death.
Although criminal laws and regulations against distracted driving are proliferating, the incidents only seem to get worse. It seems that only harsh civil penalties, and the specter of financial ruin, will deter these dangerous drivers.
For example, in Ms. Barnes’ case, she was charged with reckless driving, leaving the scene of a wreck with injuries, and driving without insurance. Nor was this was not a first offense – indeed, the very day before this incident, she was convicted of a DUI (with a prior) and driving with a suspended license. Accordingly, this time around she was again charged with driving with a suspended license. If convicted, she could face up to one year in jail.
The threat of criminal charges – even her prior criminal convictions – were not enough to convince Ms. Barnes (like many others) to behave responsibly. This is why those injured by distracted drivers, and the loved ones of those killed, must take action. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured by a distracted driver, we urge you to talk to a lawyer, and consider bringing a civil action. There is no telling how many lives you might save.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago automobile accident lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.