Should Distracted Driving Be a Crime?

Written By Frank Bentley

            This month at the Brian R Murphy Law Firm we have decided to discuss the growing epidemic of distracted driving. April is Distracted Driving Month. What better way to use our voice online than by painting a picture of where our society is when it comes to distracted drivers and their impact on all of us?

            The question that came up in my research this month was “Can we really call distracted driving crashes ‘accidents’?” On the surface it seems like a simple question. If you are in a crash then it’s got to be an accident, right? What if that person purposefully stopped looking at the road and started to look at their phone? What if they were putting on makeup while going 80mph down the interstate? What if they were eating and barely holding on to the steering wheel?

            The more I thought about this problem the more I realized that I don’t understand why this is even a question. In 2015, there were 101,000 more injuries caused by distracted driving vs. drunk driving. Now think a minute: If you were the cause of a wreck while using your cell phone and someone was hurt how would you think about yourself? How would your friends react? Would they even know you were on the phone when it happened? Now do the same questions, but this time instead of being distracted you were drunk.

            In all states drunk driving will immediately land you in jail even if you didn’t hurt anyone. In almost no states are the same rules applied to distracted driving. You may get a ticket, and the civil case against you may be hard to win, but usually you are not going to jail. Is this right?

            Our society makes lots of decisions on what can be legal and what can’t be, what constitutes a crime and what doesn’t, what is right and what is wrong. I guess the question we should all be asking ourselves is: If we are injuring people 100,000 instances more than drinking and driving, is that ok?

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