Smartphones contribute to Virginia car accidents at a startling rate due to the level of distraction they provoke. But there's an even more serious form of distracted driving involving smartphones - livestreaming. This includes watching real-time videos or filming live videos for social media audiences while behind the wheel.
Dangers posed by livestreaming and driving
Recently in Arizona, a woman was killed by a self-operating Uber car whose driver was reportedly watching an episode of the reality television show The Voice. Specifically, the accident killed a 49-year-old woman walking her bicycle across the street. The backup operator failed to take note of the pedestrian's presence and did not apply the brakes in time.
According to the accident report, the fatal car accident could have been prevented if the Uber driver had been paying more attention to the road. Investigators also concluded the driver had 42 feet from the time the pedestrian was visible to react. In addition, authorities reported the Uber vehicle failed to alert the operator when to take over during the incident.
This accident also illustrates one of the serious problems with "self-driving" cars. Some drivers think these vehicles can do everything. Instead, drivers must take control at a moment's notice if a problem arises.
Uber's reaction to accident
After the accident in Arizona, Uber executives laid off roughly 300 test drivers of its Arizona autonomous vehicle testing unit. In addition, Uber will immediately fire any driver caught using an electronic device behind the wheel. Electronic devices include smartphones, smartwatches and many other devices.
Currently, self-driving vehicle systems do not have a way to alert drivers to an obstacle in the roadway. As a result, Uber has decided to review its safety practices and procedures, including hiring a former chair of the National Transportation Safety Board as an adviser, according to Business Insider.
Virginia law (Va. Code Ann. 46.2-341.20:5) prohibits texting or the use of handheld mobile phones by commercial drivers. The same law also covers drivers of vehicles carrying 9 to 15 passengers. In addition, Virginia law bans texting while driving for all drivers. Drivers under 18 years old cannot use cell phones at all while driving, even to make a hands-free call.
Some people hope self-driving vehicles will eliminate distracted driving altogether. But most people agree more work needs to be done to make these vehicles fully autonomous and 100 percent safe. If you or a loved one was injured in a crash, contact an experienced Virginia auto accident attorney as soon as possible.