Intellectual Property, Business Law, Personal Injury

Drivers Can Still Be Negligent While Using a Smartphone "Do Not Disturb" Feature

Phoenix auto accident attorneyArizonans are not immune to the dangers of distracted driving. The roads of Phoenix experience countless accidents every day, and distracted driving is responsible for a substantial number of injuries and fatalities.  Navigation and entertainments systems in vehicles, as well as the ubiquitous smartphone, provide ample temptation for drivers to divert their attention from the road. How can Arizona drivers address this problem?

The Rise of "Do Not Disturb" Settings

Business Insider reports that the iOS 11 operating system for iPhone–due for release in late 2017–will include a comprehensive “do not disturb while driving” function. This function will automatically detect when a user is driving and engage itself. The user receives no notifications and cannot access the home screen until he or she stops driving. (The user can override this setting by following a series of prompts, and passengers will therefore be able to prevent being locked out when their iPhones sense they are in a moving vehicle.)

The move by Apple comes after a series of lawsuits against it. In one case typical of such lawsuits, Bethany and James Modisette sued Apple for the wrongful death of their five-year-old daughter, who was killed in a car accident caused by a driver who had been using FaceTime while driving. According to the Guardian, the Modisettes alleged that Apple held patents on technology to lock out iPhone functions while driving, but had failed to implement them in its products, thus contributing to their daughter’s death. While it will be difficult for the Modisettes to prove that Apple’s actions were not superseded by the driver’s negligence, it does raise an interesting question: what obligation do drivers have to prevent themselves from using technology devices while driving?

Arizona Distracted Driving Laws

AZCentral reports that only two states in America do not ban texting for all or most motorists. Though Arizona and Montana do not explicitly ban the practice, an Arizona driver can still be found negligent for using a smartphone while driving when it creates a violation of other driving statutes.

  • Arizona Revised Statute (ARS) § 28-693 prohibits driving a vehicle in reckless disregard for the safety or persons or property.
  • ARS § 28-701 prohibits operating a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent for present circumstances, hazards and conditions.
  • ARS §28-730 prohibits drivers from following another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent.

Use of a smartphone can cause a driver to violate any of these laws, and the use of a "Do Not Disturb" setting will not protect an Arizona driver from legal responsibility (“liability”) for such a violation.

Some lawsuits have targeted Apple directly, alleging that because the company has the ability to halt all engagement between these operating systems and the driver while the vehicle is in motion, they are negligent for failure to do so. However, Apple has yet to be required to pay. That could change, and our attorneys will be closely watching the outcome of this case law.

Israel & Gerity, PLLC has been protecting the rights of car accident victims in the Phoenix area and throughout Arizona since 2002. The firm’s experienced auto accident attorneys have decades of experience in negotiating and litigating personal injury claims to ensure that accident victims receive full and fair compensation for their injuries.

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