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Should mobile phone makers block texting and driving?

In this blog we have posted many times about the dangers of texting and driving. Just last month we discussed a visit by the "It Can Wait" safety campaign to a Billings High School. The problem is serious: according to a recent article in the New York Times, fatal motor vehicle accidents are increasing at a rate unseen since the 1960s, and distracted driving is part of the problem.

Now some lawyers and safety advocates are suggesting that part of the responsibility lies with cell phone makers who, they argue, have the ability to block text messaging while a phone's owner is driving. According to these critics, phone makers choose not to implement the technology because doing so would cause them to lose customers - especially for the first company to do so.

A fatal accident in Texas three years ago has led to a lawsuit against Apple, maker of the iPhone. The suit alleges that Apple was aware its products were being used for texting while driving, but chose not to do anything to prevent it. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in Texas have unearthed a 2008 Apple patent filing for a technology that would shut down a phone if sensors detected it was being used by a driver.

The cell phone makers have argued that the technology is in its infancy and is still unreliable. They claim they cannot lock out a driver's phone without also blocking the phones of passengers, including passengers on trains and buses.

For the individual victim of a distracted driver accident, legal remedies already exist to hold the negligent driver responsible. The victim has the right to sue the distracted driver for negligence and seek damages for pain and suffering, lost wages and medical expenses. Whether cell phone makers can also face liability for crashes remains to be seen.

Source: New York Times, "Phone Makers Could Cut Off Drivers. So Why Don't They?" Matt Richtel, Sep. 24, 2016

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