Distracted Driving Crash Investigations

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My law practice, which is concentrated in handling motor vehicle accident cases, has changed dramatically over the last 8 years. Since 2009, I have a steady increase in the number of collisions caused by drivers who I suspect were using a cell phone while driving. However, because cell phone use behind the wheel is rarely admitted by drivers who cause crashes, it is important to identify independent evidence in an investigation that can lead to the conclusion that the driver at fault was engaged in manipulating a cell phone just before the crash.   

I suspect that a primary reason why distracted drivers will not admit their bad behavior is the belief that the cell phone use is never going to be discovered or proven.

Common Evidence of Distracted Driving Caused By Cell Phone Use

Proving a person was using their cell phone behind the wheel is difficult. However, there are some pieces of evidence that can be used to help support this claim. These include:

  • The driver admits they are at fault. As mentioned before, this rarely happens; however, it can happen from time to time.
  • Witness testimony. In some situations, other drivers will witness what happens and can provide a statement about it. They may have noticed the driver was looking at their phone, reaching into the backseat or otherwise distracted.
  • Cell phone records. Call and text records can be used in court to prove that someone was on their mobile device when a crash occurred.
  • Video evidence. Today, cameras are virtually around every corner. This includes on traffic signals, street signs, storefronts and more. Videos can often show what a driver was doing at the time an accident occurred.
  • Absence of proof that the driver tried to prevent the accident. In most distracted driving accidents, there are no skid marks or other signs of an attempt to brake and avoid the collision.

Cell Phone Records

It is important to note, in a civil case, cell phone records can only be obtained with an authorization from the accused distracted driver. Most providers maintain cell phone records for up to 12 months. If someone is going to utilize these records, they need to nail down the specific date and time of the collision. This can be done by using witness testimony, calls to 911 and other investigative techniques.

The Importance of Initial Investigations

In a crash case, if distracted driving is suspected, but not admitted, it is wise to retain an attorney who has experience in handling motor vehicle accident cases and has the resources to properly investigate the case. As noted above, a sharp attorney will ordinarily attempt to nail down the exact time of the collision. When the exact time has been established, other collateral evidence, including the important cell phone records, can be used to show that the phone was in use at the time just before the collision.  

Unfortunately, distracted driving is becoming more and more of an issue as new technology is being created and released. As a result, the initial investigations are crucial to securing proof of distracted driving.