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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. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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