[May 2018 Update: Case has been resolved to client’s full satisfaction]
Our client is a victim of distracted and reckless driving.
In only a second or two, her life was turned upside down after being struck by a distracted driver. It can happen to you too.
She did nothing wrong and is an innocent victim. Here’s what happend.
As she did every night after getting home from work, our client was lawfully walking across the parking lot driveway at her townhouse complex to get the mail. When she started to cross, there were no cars.
Just before making it all the way across the driveway, a vehicle entered the parking area from the main street and approached our client from the left. Our client observed the drivers head looking down (probably at her phone but it doesn’t really matter).
What does matter is that she wasn’t being careful or watching where she was going. If she was she would have easily observed our client.In the next second or two, our client watched the vehicle approach and strike her as she turned to the side to try and avoid the collision.
I believe that whether people realize it or not, most are addicted to their smartphones and other mobile devices. Even if they wanted to, they don’t have the self-control to stop using these devices while driving.
Understanding and acknowledging that there’s an addiction is the first, of several steps, in fixing this growing safety problem. What happens next is up to all of us.
As reported by CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Silicon Valley is engineering your phone, apps and social media to get you hooked. Truth be told, you’re holding a modern day slot machine in your hand. Most people can’t stop using it even if they wanted to.
According to Google software engineers, every time you check your phone, you’re playing the slot machine to see, ‘What did I get?’ (likes, shares, comments…). Your mind is being hijacked while creating habits. Potentially deadly habits when you do this while driving.
I believe the other big issue people are misinformed about is the false perception that it’s safe to use a hands-free Bluetooth system while driving. It’s not. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
The evidence shows that hands-free and Bluetooth devices offer no safety benefits whatsoever. In fact, they “distract” you from the act of driving for up to 27 seconds after use. The same concept applies to the quality of your attentiveness while driving when your passengers are using their smartphones. Click here for the research
If you can’t stop yourself from using your smartphone while driving, then you’re probably addicted to your phone. Please get help before somebody is killed.
Lead by example and turn your smarthphone off before turning your car on. Learn more about the facts of distracted driving by visiting StopDD.todayEndDD.org and ItCanWait.com
Do you consider distracted driving a public safety issue? What do you do when you see someone engaged in distracted driving?
Last month I posted a survey about distracted driving. A cross-section of 46 people responded from social media, business, law and the police communities. The survey is ongoing but here are the preliminary results:
Question #1: Have you had a family member or friend harmed or killed by distracted driving?
Please participate (and share) this 60 second community focused distracted driving survey!
To all business owners, social media users, and social media experts:
When you see someone updating social media or livestreaming while driving, do you believe this is a public safety issue? If so, what do you do, if anything, to fix the problem?
I ask this question because April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and I’m trying to determine how the social media community feels about this issue. I’m writing a new blog post on the topic and would value receiving your confidential feedback to this short survey.
Rotary District 5320 Interactors, together with other Rotarians and Rotary Interactors from around the world, are trying to stop distracted driving. This year my son, Garrett Jackson, is the Interact District 5320 Governor and he and his fellow Interactors are on a mission to raise awareness as to the dangers of distracted driving and, to stop distracted driving once and for all!
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and on April 5th, Interactors will be using Thunderclap to share their work and message with the world using social media. On this date, the following message will automatically be shared by the Thunderclap platform to the followers of those supporters who have joined the distracted driving campaign. As of this date, 2,436,440 people will receive the following message at 5 pm ET:
Too many people I know are distracted drivers. It’s not OK.
My takeaway is that (1) they think they’re more important than everyone else; (2) they think they are a better drivers than everyone else or, (3) because of the way they use their phone, they think they’re driving safely.
Here’s a reality check. On all three counts, these people are wrong and in some cases, dead wrong.
I hear this all the time:
“Mitch, I’m an excellent driver. I’ve never had an accident. I’m careful when I live stream or update social media while driving.”
I just have to roll my eyes when I hear this. Look, here’s the deal. Despite how great you think you are at driving, there is no such thing as a safe distracted driver. By the way, I once met the real Rain Man 😉
Let’s look at the facts:
There’s a reason why 4,000 to 6,000 people are killed, and another 400,000 to 600,000 people are injured in the U.S. each year because of distracted driving (experts predict the true unreported numbers are much higher). To put things into perspective, drunk driving only injures 290,000 each year.
(Please watch this short video. Seriously, please click and watch. It will only take a few minutes)
Now that I’ve got your attention, I’d like to ask you the following question:
Have you ever watched John Quinones’ ABC television show, “What Would You Do?”
During the show, hidden cameras allow viewers to watch how people behave when they are confronted with dilemmas. Some take action and help. Others walk by and do nothing.
I find the show both informative and engaging. It think it tells you a great deal about our society. It’s interesting to see how people react differently to uncomfortable situations. Some do the right thing, step up, and help. Others look the way and then after the fact, offer lame excuses for why they didn’t get involved.
Now let’s move to the real world for a moment. We’re standing together in your neighborhood and in front of your house.
A drunk driver is speeding by while swerving back and forth down the street. Your kids are out front playing catch. This isn’t the first time you’ve seen this knucklehead drinking and driving.
If this happened to you, what would you do to protect your kids and others in the neighborhood?
A Recent Example of a Community Working Together
One very good example of a community coming together to save lives involves the drunk driving and Periscoping case in Florida. Whitney Beall, 23, was allegedly under the influence of alcohol or drugs while Periscoping and driving. Some people joked about what was happening. Others completely ignored what was going on.
Some people stepped up and did the right thing. They understood the danger and immediately reached out on Periscope begging Whitney to stop. Others asked for help on Twitter, and still others contacted local police authorities. Click to watch this USA Today news story and video
Because people took action, Ms. Beall’s life may have been saved. The lives of other drivers were probably saved too. Taking fact action was the right thing to do. Turning the other way and ignoring this situation just wasn’t an option for some of the people watching.
Drunk Driving Statistics
Why do we feel the way we do about drunk driving? It’s because of a massive amount of education and awareness we’ve all been exposed to over the years. For many, it’s about living the nightmare of having someone we care about harmed or killed by a drunk driver.
It’s because statistics show that drunk driving kills almost 10,000 people and injures another 290,000 people each year. Some of these injuries and deaths involve the people engaging in drunk driving. Most involve other innocent drivers and bystanders who are unfortunate enough to get in their way.
Distracted Driving Statistics
Now, what if I was to tell you that each year in the United States 4,000 to 6,000 people are killed, and 400,000 to 6,000,000 people are injured because of distracted driving? Or, how does it make you feel knowing that at any given second during daylight hours, there are 600,000 distracted people driving around paying more attention to the mobile devices in their hands than where they’re going or appreciating what’s in front of them?
Experts are predicting that because of the increasing use of mobile technology, the number of deaths due to distracted driving is on pace to exceed the number of drunk driving deaths in the next three to five years. What that means is you will have a greater chance of being harmed or killed by a distracted driver than a drunk driver.
Candace LIghtner (Founder of MADD)
Are you OK with this growing problem? I’m not and neither is Candace Lightner, founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Candace recently said distracted driving “is not being treated as seriously as drunk driving, and it needs to be.” It’s “dangerous, devastating, crippling, and it’s a killer, and still socially acceptable.” (click to read)
I think Candace hit the nail on the head when she made these comments. Recent studies show that more teens are killed while using their smartphones while driving than by drinking. This is a huge problem that most people are unaware of and one that is getting worse each day.
What’s exciting for me is watching awareness about this issue increase on a daily basis. Just recently, Piers Morgan, Susanna Reid and UK based police officer and friend, Neil Dewson-Smyth (#DontStreamandDrive), discussed the growing problem of live streaming and driving (the video can be watched at StopDD.Today). The more conversation the better.
I encourage awareness and education through conversation because what both drunk and distracted drivers have in common is that their reckless actions result in more than a combined 15,000 deaths and almost 900,000 injuries each year in the United States along. Globally these numbers are well into the millions. And this problem isn’t getting better folks. It’s getting worse each day.
Everybody Makes Mistakes
Look, I get the convenience of using driving time to catch up with phone calls, emails, text and even create content on social media. Especially in stop and go traffic on our crowded Southern California freeways. Over the years, I’ve done this myself. But then I was approached publicly in a Youtube comment by someone who said, “Mitch, are you sure this is safe to do?”
The question gave me pause. At first I thought, who is this person calling me out? But then, after a few minutes, I stopped what I was doing and gave my conduct serous thought.
I then did the research. The risk, harm and numbers (above) immediately changed my perspective and behavior on this issue. I stopped cold turkey to become a safer drive. I stopped to try and lead by example because I knew others, including my kids, were watching what I was doing.
I came across Joel Feldman’s tragic story involving his beautiful daughter Casey who was killed by a distracted driver. I studied his work, effort and site EndDD.org. As a dad, Casey’s story changed forever how I looked at and would deal with any kind of unsafe driving including distracted driving.
Whether We Like It Or Not, There Are Consequences To Our Actions
As adults, when we make intentional decisions, we must accept the consequences. It’s called being accountable and responsible for our actions.
Being a drunk or distracted driver is a choice. It’s a decision to act recklessly which exposes innocent people other than yourself, to harm and death. It’s not so much about you as it is about the rights and safety of others. And that’s one of the most important points I’m making in this post so I’ll say it again- DISTRACTED DRIVING EXPOSES INNOCENT PEOPLE TO HARM AND DEATH.
Now I’m all for educating our community and raising awareness as to the dangers of distracted driving. Sharing resources that allow people to learn more about what is distracted driving and the harm it causes is a good thing. In fact, that’s what StopDD.Today is all about. It’s about educating the public and bringing awareness to this growing problem.
But here’s the deal. What do you do when you see a friend, acquaintance or someone else using social media or live streaming while driving day after day after day? Let’s say you decide to reach out and call or privately share the resources explaining the risks of distracted driving at StopDD.Today and EndDD.org. And then after doing so, nothing changes.
The distracted driver ignores you and continues to engage in reckless and self-centered distracted driving. As far as you can tell, for them it’s business as usual. They’re hoping you’ll just turn your head, look the other way and do nothing.
As Far As I’m Concerned, We’re All Either Part Of The Solution Or Part Of The Problem
Using social media while driving is a public offense. People who do this, whether they realize it or not, are putting the health and safety of our families at risk.
Exposing someone for distracted driving is simply taking an already dangerous public act and sharing it with your community to hopefully save lives. By engaging his or her audience on the public social media platforms, the distracted driver never had a right to privacy in the first place and never had a right to keep his or her bad habit a secret.
This problem is getting worse each day. We can’t look the other way and not get involved.
It’s our responsibility as a community to do something to fix the problem of distracted driving. Education and raising awareness are important tools. Self-monitoring and regulation as a social community will also do more to educate, raise awareness and fix this problem than anything else I can think of. Ignoring the problem all together is not an option.
When all said and done, I believe that getting involved and taking affirmative action to stop distracted driving isn’t a choice. It’s a requirement of a responsible society.
What Am I Going to Do When A Distracted Driver Refuses To Stop And Continues To Put Innocent Lives At Risk?
When people think their rights to do something on social media are more important than someone else’s life and safety, then they need to take a moment to reevaluate their priorities. Nobody has the right to put someone else at risk based upon their perceived entitlement of social media behavior.
When it comes to dealing with distracted drivers, you can make the choice of not doing anything at all. You can look the other way. You can keep your mouth shut and condone this reckless conduct by your failure to act.
Or you can be that person that we all look up to on “What Would You Do?” You know, the person who does the right thing. The person who says what needs to be said and does what needs to be done to right a wrong and help out her fellow human being.
For me the answer is easy. I will probably unfriend them and stop supporting them on the digital platforms. If I feel the specific circumstances require me to do so, I will stand up and share my concerns publicly, because in my opinion, it’s the right thing to do.
But that’s just me. I’m been doing this sort of thing for the last 30 years as a trial lawyer and it’s just who I am and I’ll never apologize for trying to do the right thing and help others.
I believe that accurately holding another person accountable for his or her misguided, dangerous and often times criminal actions makes society a better and safer place. I personally have a zero tolerance for big corporations that put profits over people. I have a zero tolerance for people and companies that defraud others.
Other dangerous activities I have a huge problem with include habitual distracted drivers and repetitive drunk drivers. I’m not talking about someone making a bad choice or one time mistake and not knowing any better. I’m referencing people that do this over and over and over.
Along these same lines, if I learn that someone is engaged in child abuse, spousal abuse or any hate crimes (just to mention a few), then I will take legal action and also report that person to the local police authorities. If public safety is a concern, then I also will not think twice about going public with the information in my possession.
Again, I have zero tolerance for any of the above types of activities and believe my 30 year record of helping victims as trial lawyer clearly speaks for itself. I’m concerned about the well being of the victims. I’m not all that concerned about how the perpetrators feel.
For whatever reason, you may feel different about distracted driving or how to fix the problem. Either way, I invite you to reach out and learn more about this problem and these families who all have lost loved ones to distracted drivers (click here). Visit the link and read their stories. Maybe this information will change how you feel.
While writing the last paragraph, I thought about how the families of these victims would have appreciated someone stepping up, reaching out, and dealing with the distracted drivers before tragedy struck their lives. And I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that I seriously doubt any of these families would be concerned whatsoever about hurting the feelings of an exposed distracted driver during the process.
In life, not every situation is the same. Different facts and situations dictate different solutions. That’s why I believe when people make the blanket statement “exposing someone for repetitive distracted driving is bulling, shaming and defamation,” I believe they’re wrong. In fact, it’s not even a close call.
Exposing a distracted driver is not bullying or shamming. It’s about being an adult, standing up, and holding people accountable for their intentional self-centered decisions and actions.
Exposing a distracted driver is not defamation because sharing true and accurate facts is the right thing to do and is permissible in both law and equity.
These are my thoughts on distracted driving and how to deal with this growing problem.
Hopefully raising awareness through education will help change reckless behavior. Most of the people my friends and I have reached out to simply never appreciated the risks and dangers of distracted driving. They were very good people making bad decisions.
The good news is that after learning about the risks of distracted driving, they stopped. Most were thankful. Many are now strong advocates in StopDD.Today or EndDD.org movements.
You see, when it comes to distracted driving, it’s not what any of us did yesterday that matters. It’s what we do today and tomorrow that is important. Leading by example will save lives.
So I conclude this post by asking you the following question. Now that you are fully aware of the dangers of distracted driving…
What will you do the next time you see a distracted driver?
Late Tuesday afternoon, Mitch and his firm, Jackson & Wilson, Inc., filed a $25,000,000 wrongful death and catastrophic injury lawsuit against Scott Alex Abraham. The defendant was earlier charged with two counts of murder by the Orange County District Attorneys Office and his trial is set for later this year. Abraham’s reckless, self-centered and irresponsible conduct resulted in a tragic automobile collision leaving two dead and two others serious injured. Please see the KTLA News 5 video shot shortly after this incident.
Because of Abraham’s irresponsible and dangerous conduct, Kathy Hampton, a grandmother, and her two-year-old grandchild, Kaydence Hampton, sustained fatal injuries in the collision. Kaydence’s mother Megan, and her minor son, who were also in the vehicle, sustained serious injuries but survived.
A preliminary investigation indicates Abraham was operating his vehicle at a high speed and may have been racing. Additionally, and based upon information and belief, it is also believed that Abraham was also been engaged in distracted driving (using his smart phone). After the collision, it is reported that Abraham fled the scene. Fortunately, he was located and arrested the next day and is now facing two counts of murder (Penal Code §187(a) in the Orange County Superior Court.
On a related note, it’s been reported that Abraham had previously used his smartphone to take and share video with friends and on social media while driving. One video shows Abraham traveling at 108+ mph down the freeway panning from his speedometer to a shot of the freeway and then back to his dashboard. It’s our understanding that video may be used in the criminal prosecution. [Abraham is pictured above]
Once the criminal case is concluded and discovery is completed, updates will be shared at this post with all relevant information.
Other facts about reckless and distracted driving
Most people are not aware of the fact that each year in the United States, about 2 million drivers experience permanent injuries and another 40,000 people die from vehicle accidents and collisions. 40% of all deaths caused by car accidents involve alcohol and another 30% of car accident fatalities are attributed to speeding. Reckless driving accounts for 33% of all deaths involving major car accidents.
When it comes to distracted driving, 4,000-6,000 people a year are killed and another 400,000-600,000 are injured by distracted drivers. Every single second during daylight hours there are 600,000 people operating vehicles with smartphones in their hands.
Please be careful and learn more using the resources below.