Attorneys Battle Texting While Driving 3/4/13
CBS 7 News
March 4, 2013
Local attorneys are taking on more cases involving crashes where texting while driving is to blame especially in the oilfield industry.
CBS 7 spoke with several attorneys who say they are seeing more crashes like this happening within two groups: oilfield workers and teenagers.
The difference is companies can be held liable for their drivers' mistakes.
Dean McCann’s cell phone stays in his cup holder when the truck is in drive.
“The majority of my time is spent driving from point A to point B to C then to D,” he said.
That’s because of his company's zero tolerance policy. An employee can be terminated if they are caught behind the wheel texting while driving. McCann says the stakes are just too high when a driver is at fault.
“If you have a large vehicle like an 18-wheeler and the drivers distracted and gets in an accident it's very seldom that the driver of the big vehicle is injured,” he said.
Robert White an attorney in Odessa says 10 to 20 percent of his cases are dealing with distracted driving.
“If you text and drive cause an accident you're going to go before 12 men and women of the Permian Basin and they're going to punish you for that,” he said.
Although it’s not illegal in Texas, many injury lawyers are requesting phone records after their clients crash.
This can prove the driver was distracted at the time leading to settlements that cost up to millions of dollars.
It not only punishes the texter, but it sends a message out in the Permian Basin that we don't like you texting and driving,” he said.
Several oilfield companies tell CBS 7 seven their new policies are not only to avoid lawyers like Robert White, but to keep their drivers safe as well.
“They (companies) got an obligation to keep crashes from happening,” McCann said.
But McCann says the policies wont gain traction unless the company follows through.
They can implement policies, but they have to be willing to step up to enforce it if there's a violation.
Local lawyers tell CBS 7 they can even read your cell phone's data input so they could tell if your are emailing or on a social network site while driving.
Meanwhile state lawmakers are working to pass a bill that would have drivers facing criminal charges for texting while driving.
Last week, lawmakers took their first crack at the bill authored by West Texas Representative Tom Craddick.
Opponents, however, showed data that "bans" in other states have not reduced crashes.
Lawmakers also discussed ways to make the proposed law more effective if it passes in Texas.