Kentucky state legislators are considering adopting a law that would ban drivers from using cell phones near schools and in highway work zones. Although the state already has bans on cell phone use for drivers age 18 and younger, and bans texting for drivers of all ages, Kentucky legislators want to make the existing laws even tougher. Governor Beshear has called for the state to adopt "no cell phone zones."
Legislatures were moved to action based on a story involving a horrific accident on Labor Day in 2007. Hillary Coltharp, age 26, made the mistake of trying to respond to a text while driving. As a result, she lost control of her car while driving on Highway 24 in McCracken County and suffered a crash. Her car crossed the median and rolled three times before she was thrown 75 feet from her car. She landed on her head and suffered severe brain trauma, a skull fracture, a collapsed lung, and broken bones. Coltharp was not wearing a seat belt. She was just four miles away from meeting her family at a restaurant for dinner.
While Coltharp survived the accident, she spent five years in and out of hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. Her parents have made her story public in their attempt to prevent this tragedy from happening to another family.
Governor Beshear focuses on making schools and highway work zones "cell phone free" due to the vulnerability of school children and construction workers. Under the proposed new law, those who were violators would pay a $50 penalty for the first offense and the $100 for each additional offense. Half of the proceeds would go to the Kentucky Injury Prevention and Research Center at the University of Kentucky.
An alarming 20% of all car accidents are the result of distracted driving, according to the state police commissioner. Across the country, 3,331 people were killed in car accidents involving a distracted driver, and 387,000 injured, in 2011 — both higher numbers than in 2010. Moreover, drivers who use handheld devices are four times more likely to get into a car accident. One noteworthy statistic is that texting takes the driver's eyes off of the road for 4.6 seconds, or the equivalent of driving across a football field at 55 miles per hour while blind.
Some critics argue that despite the risks, toughening existing laws will do nothing except make government a bigger presence in people's lives. Supporters of the law note that concern, but argue that a $50 penalty is a small price to pay for saving lives, and that lesser offenses — such as tossing refuse from the car — can cost up to $500.
In the meantime, those injured by distracted drivers have the option of filing a lawsuit against them. They might argue that the drivers had a duty to other drivers and passengers to obey the rules of the road, that the driver breached that duty by texting, that the breach caused their injury, and that the injury resulted in damage. If you live in Indiana or Kentucky and were injured by a distracted driver, contact a Kentucky personal injury attorney to learn your options.
Miller & Falkner is a plaintiffs law firm serving residents of Kentucky and Indiana. Located in Louisville, Kentucky, the firm provides representation in the areas of personal injury and employment law. Contact us today for a free consultation.