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What You Should Know About Texting and Driving

Distracted driving is something that many of us have found ourselves guilty of at one point in time. There are numerous sources of distraction that can take our attention away from the road, such as talking on the phone, texting, adjusting the radio, using a GPS, applying makeup, eating, dealing with unruly kids in the backseat, etc. Regardless of the type of distraction, anything that takes our focus away from driving increases our chances of being involved in an accident. This article will take a look at the effects of distracted driving and analyze Louisiana’s laws regarding cell phone use.

The latest data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows there were 3,477 people killed and an estimated additional 391,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015.[1] This means that 10% of all fatal crashes in 2015 were related to distracted driving. Additionally, 15% of crashes resulted in injuries and 14% of all crashes reported to police involved distracted drivers. And 9% of drivers, ages 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of a fatal crash.

The subset of distracted driving that has received the most attention in recent years is cell phone usage; as a result, you’ll find many ad campaigns trying to bring awareness to fatal accidents caused by someone in the middle of sending a text message. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration considers texting the most dangerous distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds; at 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.[2]  More than one-third of people surveyed admit to reading a text or email while driving in the past 30 days, and more than one-quarter admit to sending a text or email.[3]

Although texting while driving has been getting the most attention recently, studies show that people talking on a cell phone are involved in more crashes than those texting. In 2010, an estimated minimum of 160,000 crashes involved texting or emailing, compared to 1.1 million crashes involving talking on cell phones.[4]  

One study indicated crash risk was two to six times greater when drivers were using a cell phone compared to when they were not distracted.[5] The NHTSA estimates that at any point during the day, 9% of drivers are using cell phones.[6] In 2016, the National Occupant Protection Use Survey found that handheld cell phone use continued to be higher among female drivers than male drivers; it also found that handheld cell phone use continued to be highest among 16- to 24-year-old drivers, and lowest among drivers 70 and older.[7] However, one study showed a bit of good news, a sign that awareness campaigns about cell phone use may be working: the percentage of passenger vehicle driver handheld cell phone use decreased from 3.8 percent in 2015 to 3.3 percent in 2016.[8]

Now that you know the extent of the danger involving cell phone usage while driving, here are the laws the state of Louisiana has enacted to combat this distraction:

  1. Anyone with a learner’s permit may not talk on the phone at any time unless its use is for emergency purposes.[9]  
  2. For all other drivers, you may legally talk on your cell phone even if you are not using a hands-free device unless you are in a school zone.[10]  If you are driving in a school zone, you may not engage in a call.
  3. It is illegal for any driver in Louisiana to write, read, or send a text message while driving; it is also illegal to access, read, or post to a social networking site.[11]  Under this statute, you will not be found in violation if you are reading, selecting, or entering a phone number or name in your phone; it is also not a violation if you are navigating using a GPS.
  4. In addition to being considered a moving violation, the penalties for texting/using social media or using a phone while in a school zone are the following:
    1. Up to $500 for a first offense
    2. Up to $1,000 for each subsequent offense
    3. If involved in a crash at the time, double the standard offense

In today’s world, distractions are all too common while driving. However, no matter how good of a driver or multitasker you think you are, it’s smart to minimize distractions as much as possible and devote your attention to the road so that you (or someone else) don’t become one of these statistics.

 


[1] https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812381

[2] https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving

[3] https://www.nsc.org/Portals/0/Documents/DistractedDrivingDocuments/Cognitive-Distraction-White-Paper.pdf?ver=2018-03-09-130423-967

[4] https://www.nsc.org/Portals/0/Documents/DistractedDrivingDocuments/Cognitive-Distraction-White-Paper.pdf?ver=2018-03-09-130423-967

[5] https://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/distracted-driving/qanda

[6] https://www.nsc.org/Portals/0/Documents/DistractedDrivingDocuments/Cognitive-Distraction-White-Paper.pdf?ver=2018-03-09-130423-967

[7] https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812426

[8] https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812426

[9] http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?d=630882

[10] http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?d=918939

[11] http://www.legis.la.gov/legis/Law.aspx?d=630881


Steps You Should Take if You’re Involved in an Uber Accident

Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services have become widely used in recent years. As a cheaper and more user-friendly alternative to taxi cabs, Uber has become the go-to service for a trip to the airport or a ride home when you’ve had a few drinks. The vast majority of Uber rides will result in arriving at your destination without incident. But what happens if your Uber driver gets into a wreck and you suffer an injury?

Uber and Lyft provide its drivers with third-party liability coverage up to at least $1 million per accident.¹ This means that if your Uber/Lyft driver is at fault, this insurance will cover liability for any damages to a third party such as the passenger. Uber also provides uninsured or underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage to its drivers. This covers any passenger in the vehicle when another driver is at fault, but that driver doesn’t have sufficient insurance coverage for your injuries. This coverage also applies to hit-and-runs where the at-fault driver is never identified.

So, if you are injured during an accident where your driver is at fault in Louisiana, both Uber and Lyft have a policy through the James River Insurance Company that covers your injuries for up to $1 million.² It is important that you contact a lawyer to ensure the proper party is sued.³ You don’t necessarily sue just the at-fault driver. Your lawyer would also send a letter to Uber and your driver instructing them to preserve evidence, requiring them to save all data or information related to your ride.

When another driver is at fault, you would first determine if the other driver’s insurance policy can cover your damages. If your injuries are serious and the other driver’s policy cannot cover the medical costs, then Uber and Lyft both have policies through the James River Insurance Company that could cover you up to $1 million.

If you get into a wreck while in an Uber, here are some recommended steps to follow that will assist your injury claims:

  •     Call 911 and take pictures of the wreck, including the license plates of all vehicles involved.
  •     Take down the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of any potential witnesses to the              crash.
  •     Write down the name of your Uber driver and the other driver.
  •     Take screenshots on your phone of the Uber ride and receipt.
  •     Finally, if you are injured or incur any medical bills, hire an attorney to handle your personal injury        claims.

We understand it might be intimidating to take legal action against a large corporate entity like Uber, but you are not alone. With the help of legal assistance, people hurt by negligent drivers have been successful in recovering damages from Uber and other rideshare companies.

 


[1]https://www.uber.com/drive/insurance/ https://help.lyft.com/hc/en-us/articles/115013080548-Insurance-Policy

[2]https://www.uber.com/newsroom/an-update-on-insurance/

[3]http://time.com/money/4851877/my-uber-got-into-a-wreck-can-i-sue/


What’s Driving Uber’s Pursuit of Driverless Cars?

On March 18th, a self-driving Uber car being tested in Arizona killed a pedestrian. The autonomous Volvo SUV struck a woman crossing the street outside of the crosswalk. There was a driver behind the wheel, but the car was in autonomous mode at the time of the accident. Uber began testing their Volvo SUVs in Arizona in February of last year. Uber is also testing its autonomous fleet in Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Toronto, and Phoenix. After this accident, Uber suspended the self-driving testing in all of these cities.

The economic potential that autonomous vehicles represent has triggered a high-stakes competition between Uber, Google, Apple, Tesla, and major car manufacturers. These massive companies are in a race to be the first to achieve true autonomy, and are throwing loads of money at solving the problem. The company that finds a solution first stands to gain a significant market advantage over everyone still catching up. Truly autonomous vehicles could wipe out the trucking industry, taxi industry, and delivery industry in one fell swoop. Full automation of the $719 billion trucking industry could result in labor cost savings of about $300 billion. Thus, there’s a huge economic incentive for eliminating human drivers.

This heated competition has triggered lawsuits. Google’s Waymo sued Uber, alleging theft of trade secrets. A week into trial, Waymo and Uber reached a settlement, but the lawsuit resulted in some dirty laundry being aired out. The discovery process revealed the internal communications of these companies, shedding light on the mindsets of top executives. A win-at-all-costs mentality and desperation about coming in second was evident between both companies. Emails between Uber executives revealed their desire to “take all the shortcuts we can” because they saw it as “a race we need to win, second place is the first loser.”

Between 2014-2016, about 37,000 people died in car crashes each year. Part of the push for driverless cars and trucks has been increased safety and fatality reduction. Proponents of autonomous vehicles argue that a computer will make far fewer errors than human drivers, considering computers will not get distracted by phones, get tired, get drunk, etc. However, the Waymo-Uber trial inadvertently revealed that Uber’s motivation lies in achieving market dominance.

Additional fatalities are likely to happen as this technology proliferates and becomes more common, but any PR spin from Uber about its commitment to safety may ring hollow due to the short-cut strategy endorsed by its executives. More importantly, Uber will face massive legal liability for wrongful deaths and injuries if plaintiffs show safety concerns were ignored in pursuit of winning the race.

Uber is fully aware of this potential liability. From a cynical perspective, it’s possible that Uber believes the profits they stand to gain from winning will dwarf wrongful death and personal injury losses by so much that shortcuts are worth it. Thus, paying for fatalities and injuries may just be a cost of doing business in Uber’s quest to dominate the autonomous car market.


More than ten times the originally reported number of deaths linked to recalled GM ignition

General Motors’ decision to hire attorney Kenneth Feinberg as a consultant regarding the company’s response to the families of victims of their faulty ignition switch has inadvertently led to the linking of 124 deaths to the defect, rather than the 13 deaths GM originally claimed to have known about. Feinberg, tasked with guiding the company through this delicate issue, reviewed over 4,000 claims of death or injury related to the recalled ignition and, after rejecting 91 percent of those claims, found that there were ten times as many deaths caused by the faulty ignition switch in GM vehicles than was previously thought.

Out of 399 claims found to be legitimate: 124 were from families of victims who died; 17 were from victims who suffered quadriplegia, paraplegia, double amputation, permanent brain damage, or extensive burns; and 258 were from victims who were hospitalized or given outpatient treatment within 48 hours of their accidents.

News of the additional claims comes at a bad time for GM, when the U.S. Justice Department is closing in on a decision regarding whether criminal charges will be levied against the company for its failure to act after first discovering the defective switch back in 2001.

It would appear that the company has attempted to make amends for the catastrophic level of damage caused by their defective vehicles; GM has earmarked $625 million for payment to the victims and their families, and this past June saw CEO Mary Barra fire 15 employees whom the company accused of failing to aggressively seek solutions to the disastrous problem. The company issued a major recall in 2014, but apparently knew of the defect in 2001, before their affected vehicles ever hit the market.

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