As a Kansas City-based injury lawyer who concentrates his law practice on representing people who have been seriously injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents, I have spent 30 years helping clients receive the maximum benefits with their insurance claims that arise from car, truck, and motorcycle accidents. While most of my cases are in the Kansas City area, I handle cases throughout Missouri and Kansas, including cases involving collisions on city streets, highways, and rural roads.
While I have handled just about every type of collision that you can imagine, my law practice has distinctly changed over the last ten years. Since 2009, with the introduction of the Iphone, I am representing a growing number of clients who have been seriously injured in what is now called distracted driving collisions where there is evidence that the at-fault driver was manipulating their cell phone behind the wheel.
While proving someone who has caused an accident due to cellphone use can be challenging (due to the fact that drivers rarely admit to cellphone use), there is plenty of circumstantial evidence surrounding a distracted driving collision. What is unique about many distracted driving crashes is that there is no evidence that the offending driver attempted to brake. As a result, distracted driving accidents typically involve a violent collision that is more likely to cause damage to the car frame and a greater probability of serious head, neck, and back injuries.
Because of my experience as a motor vehicle attorney over the last ten years, I firmly believe that distracted driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving. I hold this opinion primarily because there are many more distracted drivers than drunk drivers. Therefore, the probability of being involved in a distracted driving accident is far greater than being hit by a drunk driver. Further, many previously “safe drivers” have become dangerous drivers simply based on the fact that they are addicted to their cellphones. Habitual distracted drivers are everywhere, and most of us can attest to this.
Distracted Driving Prevention
In addition to my law practice, I devote a significant part of my work to the advancement of driver safety, particularly in the area of distracted driving prevention. Eight years ago, I developed a driving safety communications platform called “Drive By Example.” My mission is to provide traffic safety stakeholders a program that will influence drivers to adopt the safe driving habits and behaviors that protect themselves, their passengers, and others on the roadway.
Earlier this week, at the University of Missouri, I was invited to participate in the Missouri Distracted Driving Roundtable that was hosted by the National Transportation Safety Board, Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety, and Ms. Jennifer Smith, a national advocate for distracted driving prevention. This event brought together national and state transportation officials and driving safety advocates to focus on how we could bolster efforts to eliminate distracted driving in Missouri.
The roundtable discussion highlighted three different panel discussions:
- State of Distracted Driving in Missouri
- Education, Legislation, and Enforcement
- Corporate Policy and Regulation
While I provided input on all three of these areas, I will be dedicating my personal efforts specifically in the areas of legislation and corporate protection.
This is an area in which we can see major gains in terms of significantly reducing distracted driving. This is because Missouri is one of only two states without an all-driver texting ban. It is hard to believe that in Missouri it is legal to text and drive if you are 22 or older. I am not sure why we have a law that prohibits texting for those 21 and younger but allows adults to text while driving.
To right the ship and get Missouri back on course to driver safety advancement, I am advocating that Missouri lawmakers enact a “hands-free” law that would prohibit drivers from picking up their cellphones to perform any function, including texting. Presently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have “hands-free” laws. All of these states previously had a law prohibiting texting. However, they found the distracted driving epidemic as it relates to cellphones goes way beyond texting.
In my mind, it no longer makes sense for Missouri to just prohibit texting; we need a law that prohibits picking up a cellphone. While this makes total sense to many, convincing the Missouri lawmakers to adopt a “hands-free” law will be difficult. Many of these lawmakers feel that this is an imposition on personal freedom. I have my work cut out. I will, in future blogs, be updating my progress.
I believe we can significantly reduce the number of distracted drivers if corporations and businesses had policies that prohibit their employees or contractors from using cellphones while driving. While many businesses that have drivers on the road already have some sort of safe driving policy, few are doing any education, training, or communication regarding the dangers of distracted driving.
Through my “Drive By Example” platform, I have developed a Corporate Protection program that can be easily administered through existing employee wellness campaigns. What we have found is that if employees are alerted to the dangers of distracted driving, they take those safe driving habits that they have learned at work and employ them in their personal driving, as well.
Auto Accident Attorney Perspective
As car accident lawyer, I believe I have a unique perspective. As it relates to the distracted driving epidemic, I have had both a front row seat and a bird’s eye view. A front row seat for the death and serious injury that can result from a distracted driving collision. In many of the cases that I have handled, a driver paying just a little bit more attention to the road would have made a big difference for a family or a person who is now dealing with a life-long disability. In the same way, over the past 10 years I have had a bird’s eye view for the change in our driving culture brought on by distracted driving.
Given the above, I have been well-positioned to be an effective driving safety advocate. In that role, I will continue my best efforts to advance driver safety in Missouri and beyond.