Distracted driving accidents are becoming an increasingly thorny problem for road safety groups in Kentucky and around the country, and electronics manufacturers have been asked by NHTSA to incorporate smartphone features that would prevent drivers from being able to read or send text messages. While companies like Samsung and Motorola have yet to answer the federal safety watchdog's call, a class action filed in California indicates that such technology has already been developed by Apple Inc.
The lawsuit was filed against the technology giant in Los Angeles by road users who suffered injuries in accidents caused by distracted drivers. A similar lawsuit was filed against Apple by the parents of a young girl who was killed when their vehicle was stuck from behind by a driver who was using the company's popular Facetime application at the time. According to the lawsuits, Apple developed a texting lockout feature eight years ago that has never been included in iPhones or offered for download.
Legal analysts feel that arguments in the case will revolve around whether or not Apple knew that withholding the safety feature would lead to more distracted driving crashes. Texting has been identified as a contributory factor in about 26 percent of American car accidents by the National Safety Council, and NHTSA considers drivers who text to be six times more hazardous to other road users than drivers who have been drinking. Road safety advocates say that Apple's 40 percent share of American smartphone sales puts the company in a uniquely strong position to address the issue.
Juries are often not given the chance to hear cases of this type and the public rarely learns how they were resolved because the defendants involved frequently enter into negotiated settlements with strict nondisclosure clauses. While punitive damages are sometimes awarded in these lawsuits, experienced personal injury attorneys may encourage their clients to avoid protracted and potentially expensive litigation by accepting generous settlement terms.