Checking your smartphone while driving is tough to resist for many people. Whether it’s to read the latest Twitter feed, see who “liked” a Facebook post or take a photo to share on Snapchat or Instagram, people check their phones constantly. Numerous studies conducted about cell phone usage while driving has shown that it causes distractions and often leads to accidents. And in some states, including California, all hands-on use of cell phones is against the law. California’s new restrictions on cell phone usage took effect in January of this year.
However, even though there are laws in place and plenty of data showing the dangers of distracted driving caused by cell phone usage, people continue to do so. For example, a 2016 report from CNN reveals that over 15,000 Instagram users posted selfies while driving using hashtags such as #drivingselfie, #drivingtowork, and even #ihopeidontcrash.
Who is at Fault, Social Media or the Drivers?
Some people have begun to question whether the social media companies should be held responsible for accidents that are the result of using their apps. One of the leading social media sites, Snapchat, has a speed filter that allows users to clock the rate of their speed while taking a selfie. In September of 2015, a Georgia teen crashed into another driver while she was allegedly going over 100 miles per hour and using this Snapchat speed filter.
Snapchat claims that it does not encourage its users to utilize this feature while driving. In fact, there is a warning on the app that says “Do NOT Snap and Drive”. Regardless, the victim in this accident filed a lawsuit last summer against both the teen driver and Social Media app, Snapchat.
The case recently made it to court. This past January a Georgia judge dismissed it. He cited the Communications Decency Act of 1996 as the reason. According to a news report on the case, a lawyer for Snapchat told the Associated Press that this was a precedent-setting ruling. If the judge had ruled against them, Snapchat’s lawyer said that it could open a floodgate of distracted driver lawsuits which blame companies rather than drivers who are using the technology irresponsibly.
The lawyer for the victim disagrees with the ruling and is considering an appeal.
Drivers Using Social Media in California
While there is always a possibility that future cases against Social Media apps will make it to court, the law in California prohibits any kind of hands-on cell phone usage while driving. This means that regardless of social media apps available, drivers are breaking the law if they are using them.