How Mt. Pleasant Texting Ban Helps Claims of Injured People
The Town of Mt. Pleasant, location of Traywick & Traywick main office, has just passed a texting and cell phone ban. As a result, effective immediately, drivers are subject to fines for the use of any handheld communication device while operating a motor vehicle. We say: it’s about time!
We recognize that the effectiveness of bans on handheld device usage at the wheel is something of an open debate. For example, in Seattle, where cell phone use bans have been in place for more than five years, research data show that one in twelve of all drivers, at any given moment, are using either their cell phones or are actively texting. This same study notes that there is little reliable data on the effects of texting–in terms of accidents, deaths, perosnal injures–because texting while driving is a relatively new phenomenon. By comparison, the National Safety COuncil finds that 25% of all accidents involve cell phone usage by one driver or the other. So while blanket bans like Mt. Pleasant’s appear likely to be more effective in reducing car accidents, and severe personal injury that they cause, the final data are not in.
Regardless: common sense causes each of us to recoil when we drive by a person who is gaping at the glowing screen of his or her cell phone, at 30 or 40 or 50 or 70 miles per hour. In fact, it appears to be a form of insanity (though, sadly, a form of insanity in which TLO lawyers and staff admittedly have engaged in on occasion). Stories like this one in the USA Today about the terrible cost of distracted driving provide graphic illustration of why the public overwhelmingly supports these bans. As one Beaufort County Councilman said when they passed a similar ban earlier this week: “I don’t think we’ve ever passed an ordinance with less debate than this one.”
We will look forward to seeing whether the rates of cell phone and text usage at the wheel will drop here in Mt. Pleasant, and whether accident rates will reflect a corresponding reduction. Frankly, we have our doubts. In our experience, people will do what they want to do, especially in what we all consider to be largely a private space like our car.
Editorials aside, the interesting aspect of these bans from a legal perspective is that the existence of an ordinance which criminalizes texting or talking on the phone is a powerful tool in the hands of the lawyer representing a person injured by a driver who violates the ordinance. At Traywick & Traywick, it has long since been our policy to subpoena the cell phone records of the at-fault driver, then piece together as detailed a timeline as possible, in order to try to prove that the at-fault driver in a car or truck wreck was on the phone or texting at the time of the accident. Juries naturally tend to frown on such behavior.
Now, juries will have no choice but to frown on such behavior, because it is a criminal act, which is negligent per se if it contributes to the accident. Commercial drivers—those driving flatbeds, cement mixers, tractor-trailers, 18-wheelers, log trucks and the like—have long since operated under a complete ban on texting and cell phone usage at the wheel. Now, in most jurisdictions in South Carolina that is true of all drivers.
TLO lawyer David Traywick is always available to take your call, and to discuss your options concerning personal injuries or wrongful death sustained in a car wreck or truck wreck. Initial consultation is free.