You've probably at least heard of selfie sticks: those extendable monopods that allow people to lengthen their arm's reach while using a smartphone or camera to take "selfie" photos. What you may not realize is that they are rapidly becoming the newest form of distracted driving.
There have been some spectacular accidents that have brought the issue to light.
A few self-deprecating souls have posted their own online public service announcements about the dangers of selfie sticks and distracted driving.
A Florida chiropractor filmed himself as he managed to get into an accident on a nearly deserted dirt road. He was so distracted by his selfie stick and camera that he ran straight into the only other vehicle on the road. A group of four friends posted the sing-a-long they were recording on a selfie stick right when their car blew a tire. The driver, distracted by the video they were making, wasn't able to keep the car under control.
These types of accidents just illustrate how easy it is to get into an accident if you take your eyes off the road for even a few seconds.
Most people don't realize how far they can travel in just a few seconds.
While there aren't any statistics (yet) about how long much time it takes to get a photo with a selfie stick while driving, research indicates that a simple text can cause a driver to take his or her eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. Traveling at 55mph, a driver can cross the length of a football field in just those few moments!
Taking a selfie, with or without a monopod, requires as much or more concentration and time than texting -- which means that you greatly increase your odds of being in an accident. Around 80% of all car crashes are attributed to distracted driving. And, unlike those who have posted their misadventures online to warn others about the dangers, not everyone walks away from their accidents. Friends of a North Carolina woman came forward to warn others of the dangers of taking selfies while driving when they realized that she died in a one-car accident while documenting her commute on camera.
What happens if you get caught taking selfies while driving?
Unless you want to end up on the wrong end of a lawsuit: put down the selfie stick and camera phone while you're driving. Most states have enacted bans on texting and driving and many have bans against using cell phones or other hand-held devices in general.
If you're lucky, the worst that will happen is that you'll get caught and get a ticket. However, if you end up in an accident, you could find yourself in significantly more trouble. Your selfies are time-stamped, which means that they are evidence that can be used against you if you end up causing an accident. You could also be looking at more than just a civil lawsuit for monetary damages: if someone is seriously injured or killed, you could face criminal charges ranging from reckless driving to vehicular manslaughter.
Vehicular manslaughter charges can be brought anytime you operate a vehicle in an illegal manner and someone dies as a result -- and if there are laws in your state against using a cell phone while driving, your selfie stick and camera phone could lead to a felony conviction.
For more information, or for help in a lawsuit involving a distracted driver, contact Littman & Babiarz Law Office or a similar firm.