Fortunately, there currently exist no legal precedents for special wireless company warning duty claims in distracted driver cases. To the contrary, a few years ago an Indiana state court dismissed a similar kind of lawsuit filed against a wireless company by a driver involved in a collision with a cell phone-using driver. The Indiana Court of Appeals had the good sense to recognize that “[a] cellular phone does not cause a driver to wreck a car. Rather, it is the driver’s inattention while using the phone that may cause an accident.” Pointing out that there are also drivers who eat, apply make up, or look at maps while driving, the Indiana Court saw the absurdity of imposing special duties on restaurants, cosmetic manufacturers or mapmakers to prevent car accidents. One might as well require car manufacturers to stop selling cars altogether lest they be misused and cause a collision, the Indiana Court reasoned.

Everyday folks understand that driving while texting or talking on a handheld cell phone is irresponsible behavior by a driver, as is engaging in any number of distracting behaviors. We should keep the focus on those individuals in the best position to prevent negligent driving—drivers themselves. Certainly, the wireless industry has a corporate citizen role to play raising public consciousness, but singling out one cause of driver distraction among many and shifting the personal and financial blame away from drivers who are fault is hardly justified.

Seth Cooper

Seth Cooper is the Telecommunications and Internet technology Task Force Director for the American Legislative Exchange Council.