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Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana: Don't use cell phone while driving!

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OK, the information you are about to read may save your life! Yes, that is correct, and your families, colleagues, and even your clients will thank you for reading this article. After all, none of them want you to be injured or killed while making a cellular call, texting, or e-mailing. Cell phone use while driving, no matter your age, is dangerous.

On Jan. 12, 2009, the National Safety Council called upon "motorists to stop using cell phones and messaging devices while driving." The NSC reported that "a study from the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis estimates that cell phone use while driving contributes to 6 percent of crashes, which equates to 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries, and 2,600 deaths each year." See also Insurance Information Institute's February 2003 article "Cell Phones and Driving" and Human Factors and Ergonomics Society's 2009 article "Text Messaging During Simulated Driving."

My observations during the past month have pushed me onto the proverbial soap box. Picture what I witnessed the other morning: a 30-something male driving in morning traffic at speeds up to 30 mph. He traveled through three traffic lights without ever touching the steering wheel because his hands and eyes were glued to his PDA. He was completely oblivious to his surroundings, including me in the vehicle next to him, at all three lights. I watched in disgust and horror because, having children of my own, I feared he would repeat this behavior when his young child was in the clearly visible car seat.

Another incident involved a colleague of mine who, while driving home at night, took his eyes off the road for a second to reach for his cell phone in the passenger seat. When he looked up, a deer was in front of him. He swerved and missed the deer but hit a nearby telephone pole, totaling his car. He was lucky. It could have been much worse.

Most of you own and use a cellular phone or PDA on a daily basis for work or pleasure. Moreover, many of your family members have such devices for talking and texting with friends and family. Ask yourself whether you are teaching them good habits and setting a good example the next time you use your cellular phone or PDA while driving.

Driving a 2,000-pound car in traffic while listening to the radio, navigating via a GPS device, monitoring speed with a radar detector, applying makeup or shaving, inserting a CD or DVD, and eating food are more than enough distractions without attempting to text or talk on your phone or PDA. Even a Bluetooth hands-free device is a distraction. We are bombarded with distractions, including sights and sounds from numerous sources. Unfortunately, such multitasking is common on Indiana roadways. However, most of these distractions are voluntary choices we make. Cars are not extensions of our offices and homes, so concentrate on driving.

Next time you get in your vehicle, ask yourself these important questions:

1. Is that phone call or e-mail so important that you are willing to risk your life or the lives of your family and friends who are in the vehicle with you or the innocent pedestrian or driver and passengers in the vehicle you hit?

2. Who will care for, raise, and play with your family when you are disabled or dead?

The answers are sobering if you use a cell phone or PDA while driving. We must change our behaviors. Be safe and concentrate on the road! Your family, friends, clients, and fellow Hoosiers will thank you.

David A. Temple is a partner in the Indianapolis firm of Drewry Simmons Vornehm and is a director of the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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