Here is an excellent column in today’s Dallas Morning News that I wanted to share. Congratulations to my friend, Dallas lawyer Todd Clement, for his hard work fighting to stop truckers from driving while using cell phones and texting.
I just settled a large case where an 18 wheeler crashed into my client’s vehicle which was at a complete stop on an interstate, because the trucker was on his cell phone and not paying attention to the road conditions ahead of him. This is a picture of her SUV.
by Steve Blow
It was more like an explosion than a collision. The work truck’s cruise control was set at 71 miles an hour and the driver never touched the brake.
A car ahead of him was stopped in the highway, waiting to make a left turn. A 30-year-old woman and her 82-year-old grandmother were killed in an instant.
“The driver said, ‘I never saw them.’ And though he would dispute it later, in the aftermath of the accident, he told an EMS driver that he was texting prior to the wreck,” said Dallas lawyer Todd Clement.
Clement represented the family of the women killed last year outside Sherman. He won a confidential settlement for them from the other driver’s company. And Clement has been on a national campaign ever since to ban cellphone use in moving vehicles.
“This case affected me more than any other in my life,” the 49-year-old lawyer said. “A 3-year-old and a 9-year-old lost their mom. A husband lost his wife of 62 years and had to go into a nursing home immediately after the accident.”
On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board unanimously recommended that states outlaw cellphone use while driving. And Clement supports that move. But he travels the country urging a step that would have a huge and much more immediate impact.
“Businesses have to ban this activity. That’s the only way they can protect themselves,” he said.
That goes against the tide, of course. More and more of us use our vehicles as mobile offices. The driver who hit Clement’s clients worked for Cable ONE, a major provider of cable, phone and Internet service. He drove a pickup owned by the company.
But whether involving a company vehicle or not, the law is clear that a business is liable when an employee on the job causes an accident, Clement said. And cellphone use not only makes a crash far more likely, it also increases the likelihood of being found at fault, he said.
And this is an area where juries seem especially eager to issue “send-a-message verdicts,” he said — turning their displeasure over cellphones into huge monetary awards.
A 2009 Virginia Tech study concluded that cellphone users are at least six times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash.
A Texas Transportation Institute study released in October found that texting drivers were 11 times more likely to miss visual cues.