Texting while driving is an act of negligence. It can also be one of arrogance.
So it was in the case of a driver who caused a serious accident on a Minnesota highway in 2017. The man came barreling down the road at or around the 70 mile an hour speed limit as he approached a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) work crew.
It was a bright, clear morning, and road conditions were safe. The man’s behavior was not. As he would later state in a deposition, he and a friend were texting, and their conversation had stolen the driver’s attention as he came upon the crew.
His car slammed into a parked MnDOT vehicle at full speed, according to a memo filed by Johnson//Becker attorneys in a subsequent lawsuit. The impact sheared part of the driver’s side and knocked a tire off the motorist’s car, which had enough momentum to continue down the highway nearly three-quarters of a mile. The sedan driver’s side impact airbags deployed, and he survived.
The 51-year-old MnDOT worker whose truck trailer he smashed into sustained a back injury that required surgery, physical therapy, and ongoing therapeutic care. His medical expenses ran to $177,000 within 18 months of the crash, and he was left with “permanent restrictions” like a limit on how much he could safely lift. His injuries ultimately ended his career with MnDOT and he was forced to look for other work that he could do within those lasting restriction in order to feed his family and keep a roof over his head.
Texting And Driving Statistics
Studies cited in the lawyers’ memo indicated drivers texting behind the wheel are 23 times more likely to get into an accident. The consequences in Minnesota are stark, with an average of 223 serious injuries and 59 deaths per year blamed on texting while driving from 2012-2016.
More than 9 percent of Minnesotans surveyed by a state agency reported accessing their phone while driving, and citations for texting and driving in the year of the accident had risen 23 percent from the previous year.
As noted in the brief, drivers attempting to simultaneously text are distracted in not just one way, but three:
- and cognitive.
Their eyes are off the road, their hands are off the wheel, and their mind is trying to read or write a message.
As the motorist that morning later recalled, “I remember reading the text [from his friend] and the next thing I remember was impact.”
The version of events is believable; according to calculations based on the average time of distraction due to even a single text, the man may have traveled 528 feet – or one-tenth of a mile – without seeing what was directly in front of him. A series of texts would only multiply the amount of ground he covered blindly.
Less credible, however, was the man’s explanation for why he felt comfortable texting and driving. “Because I felt I was a better driver than anybody else or most people.” His driving record contained plenty of evidence to contradict this claim, including convictions for speeding and driving while intoxicated.
Texting While Driving is Dangerous, Say Johnson//Becker Lawyers
As laid out thoroughly by Johnson//Becker attorneys representing the MnDOT worker, even if what the distracted driver said was true, it would not have prevented his accident. By taking their eyes, hands, and minds off the task at hand due to texting while driving, even a “better driver” becomes little more than a passenger in their own car.
As stated in the memo: “Texting in driving is choosing to be distracted, and when that person causes significant harms, such as Defendant here, they need to be held to account for more than simple negligence. The impact of the Court’s decision in a case can help to balance out the injustice here, and to deter others from making the same bad choices.”
The case, which ended in a settlement for the driver of the MnDOT vehicle, is one of numerous cases Johnson//Becker has successfully handled involving distracted driving.
In discussing the problem of distracted driving due to handheld use Johnson Becker, PLLC partner Jake Jagdfeld said that “Choosing to text while driving is choosing to drive distracted, and to endanger yourself and others on the road. It’s illegal, and if you hurt or kill someone because of that, you can’t undo that. It’s senseless and preventable. That text can wait.”
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If you or a loved one were injured in a texting while driving accident, you may want to speak with the lawyers at Johnson // Becker.
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