Dropped Cell Phone In Car Leads to Fatality

November 6, 2012

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In my 20 years of practice, I have seen motorists cause collisions in numerous ways: allergic sneezes; falling asleep at the wheel; being under the influence of drugs or alcohol; trying to beat a traffic control light or another vehicle at an intersection; speeding and faulty brakes, among others.

Over this period of time, mobile phones entered the marketplace and this new invention has caused significant impact on today's motorists. Initially, these phones were large and cumbersome and did not adapt well to automobiles due to limited coverage, size or battery power. As time went on and technology improved, it was possible to bring a small cell phone into the car and operate as motorists traveled down roads. Then, the cell phone evolved into a smartphone, which allowed a motorist to text messages to others as well as speak while operating a vehicle. And...in my opinion...the ability to text while driving has caused a large upswing in car accidents today.

I have blogged about the dangers of cell phones and driving here, here and here. Today, the Atlanta Journal Constitution published another online article regarding a car collision caused by the use of a cell phone. Earlier this morning, an older gentleman from Henry County, Ga., was killed as the proximate cause of a young motorist who lost control of her vehicle as she voluntarily took her eyes off the highway to the floor of her car to retrieve a dropped cell phone.

According to the article, 18-year-old Selena Gonzalez of Seffner, Fla., was driving southbound on I-75 near Tampa, Fla., when she dropped her cell phone on the floor of her vehicle. When Ms. Gonzalez took her eyes off the road and reached down for several seconds to retrieve her phone, her Ford Expedition moved over to the shoulder of the road. As Ms. Gonzalez brought her gaze back to the highway, she attempted to steer her vehicle back onto the road and overcorrected, which caused her Expedition to flip several times before it came to rest facing east in the middle lane. At that point, Ms. Gonzalez exited her vehicle on a national highway in the middle lane and attempted to call 911 when another vehicle also traveling southbound on I-75--a Chevrolet Suburban operated by the motorist from Henry County--collided into Gonzalez's vehicle. A short time later, a freight truck traveling in the same southerly direction struck the driver's side of the Suburban killing the driver. The driver of the freight truck and Ms. Gonzalez were taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries.

Let's assume that Ms. Gonzalez was traveling the maximum speed limit of 70 mph just prior to dropping her cell phone. If that is the case, Ms. Gonzalez was traveling 102.66 feet per second at the moment she looked down to retrieve her phone. Let us further assume that it took Ms. Gonzalez two to three seconds to pick up her phone from the time of the drop and we can see that she traveled 200-300 feet before she overcorrected and flipped her car. Can anyone imagine the clear danger of a dangerous instrumentality, such as a large Ford Expedition, motoring down the highway with no one paying attention behind the wheel? On top of that, the Suburban and the freight truck were surely traveling at a good clip before the impact.

It is clear that Ms. Gonzalez was negligent because she knew or should have known that damage could occur to another motorist as she took her eyes off the road to pick up her cell phone and left her vehicle in some sense unattended. As a death occurred as a result of her negligence, it is certainly plausible that the district attorney in this jurisdiction may seek to have Ms. Gonzalez indicated with voluntary manslaughter because she voluntarily chose to take her eyes off the road and further voluntarily chose to overcorrect when she placed herself in a precarious position.

In the end, this is yet another example of injuries, death and damage done as the result of the use of a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle. Not very smart. I believe this car wreck is just the tip of the iceberg as dropped cellphones occur all over Georgia and the country on a daily basis. It is important to contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately if you are harmed or damaged by a cell phone driving motorist. Our thoughts go out to the family of the Suburban motorist.

The Law Offices of Kevin C. Ford have over twenty years of experience in handling the claims of Georgia accident victims caused by the negligence of motorist on a cellphone, and if you or your loved ones have been the victims of such an accident in Georgia, we can help you, too. Contact us today, to speak to an attorney right away. As always, the consultation is free, and there is no obligation. Call us at 404-869-6969, or use the online form. We are available to answer all your questions.