A New York father is putting pressure on lawmakers and police officers to treat distracted driving the same way as drunk driving. Along with his family and others, he formed an organization called Distracted Operators Risk Casualties, or DORCs.
The man lost his 18-year-old son in 2011 following a head-on collision in which distracted driving is thought to have been a factor. The driver of the car told police that he had fallen asleep at the wheel. The father felt that there was more to the story and pressed to investigate whether the driver’s cellphone use had been a factor in the car accident. He subsequently filed a civil suit against the driver and pressed for cellphone records, which demonstrated that the young driver’s browser on his smartphone had consistently been in use in the time leading up to the accident.
According to law enforcement officials, distracted driving is more difficult to investigate than drunk driving. Investigating drunk driving allegations is as simple as running a blood or Breathalyzer test while distracted driving is a more difficult circumstance to prove. If there are no witnesses to an accident, it can be difficult to prove that a driver was using a cellphone when the accident occurred. The alternative is to subpoena phone records, which can take time. In addition, the phone records would need to line up exactly with the time and place of the crash. Further, many police departments do not have a protocol for investigating distracted driving. Officers use their own discretion in deciding whether to seek phone records.
After a family has lost a loved one in an accident for which distracted driving is suspected to be the cause, an aggressive attorney may be invaluable in building a strong case. The attorney may be able to obtain a subpoena for cell phone records and reconstruct a timeline of events different from the one appearing in the initial police report.
Source: USA Today, “N.Y. family who lost son fights distracted driving,” Terence Corcoran, May 29, 2013