Although texting while driving is illegal in Washington, D.C., it still presents a serious danger to D.C. drivers. According to recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control, about nine people are killed, and over 1,000 injured, every day in the United States in incidents involving a distracted driver.
Last month, a federal appeals court decided a case against Apple alleging that the iPhone’s text notification caused a fatal car crash involving a distracted driver. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, the at-fault driver received a text message on her iPhone as she was driving on the highway. That driver allegedly looked down to read the message, and when she looked back up at the road, she was unable to avoid a crash. She hit another vehicle, killing two adults and rendering a child paraplegic. The driver was convicted of criminally negligent homicide.
Representatives of the victims in the crash sued Apple in federal court, claiming that the crash was caused by Apple’s failure to warn users about the risks of distracted driving and by Apple’s failure to implement a lock-out mechanism. At the time, Apple had secured a patent for a “lock-out mechanism,” to prevent users from using certain functions while driving. The plaintiffs claimed that Apple was liable in part because it did not implement the lock-out mechanism on the iPhone 5, which the driver was using at the time of the crash. The plaintiffs further claimed that Apple was liable because there is “an unconscious and automatic, neurobiological compulsion to engage in texting behavior” when a user receives a text message notification. Apple moved to dismiss the lawsuit, and the court granted the motion, dismissing the plaintiffs’ complaint. The plaintiffs appealed the decision.