Connecticut Bans Most Cell Phone Use While Driving, Part 2: How May it Affect Personal Injury Claims?


file0002103247471.jpgConnecticut applies strict prohibitions on the use of cellphones and other mobile devices while driving. These laws are among the strictest in the nation, and while they address a serious risk posed by certain drivers, it is not yet clear that they actually reduce the overall number of automobile accidents. State laws restricting distracted driving may still serve a useful purpose in civil personal injury claims, however, by helping plaintiffs establish that a distracted driver acted negligently.

Bans on cell phone use while driving have encountered criticism for only addressing one type of distraction. A law review note exploring the various legal efforts to address distracted driving described four categories of distraction: “visual, auditory, biomechanical, and cognitive.” Andrew F. Amendola, Note, Can You Hear Me Now?: The Myths Surrounding Cell Phone Use While Driving and Connecticut’s Failed Attempt at a Remedy, 41 Conn. Law. Rev. 341, 348 (2008). Cell phone use can affect all four.

Two types of accidents tend to result from distraction: the distracted driver collides with an object ahead of them, or the driver veers off the road or into another lane of traffic. Id. at 347-48. The second type of accident only tends to happen when a driver is distracted or has diminished capacity, such as due to intoxication. Among the various forms of distraction, research has shown that eating while driving poses a significant accident risk. A 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reportedly found that up to eighty percent of all automobile accidents involve a driver attempting to eat and drive at the same time. See also Amendola at 353. Connecticut does not expressly prohibit eating while driving, although law enforcement could investigate it as “reckless driving” in some circumstances. Other significant distractions may include fatigue, children in the car, pets or other animals, external visual distractions like billboards, or even just conversations with passengers. Conversing with a passenger can be just as distracting as a hands-free cell phone conversation. Amendola at 359.