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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. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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