A Georgia man and his wife recently filed a personal injury lawsuit against a teen driver, alleging that the 18-year-old high school student was driving while distracted and speeding because of a popular Snapchat speed filter. Their lawyers state that Snapchat was the critical factor in the accident as the teen was using a filter which clocks how fast the user is going. The Complaint, filed on April 19, also names the company Snapchat as a Defendant.
Distracted driving has become a huge issue in recent years. In 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. In 2010 the research indicated that during daylight hours approximately 660,000 drivers were using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number which has not changed in the past six years.
According to the Accident Reconstruction Report, the teen was driving at a reckless 107 MPH at the time of the collision. However, passengers in her car stated that she had reached speeds as fast as 113MPH. As a result of the collision, Mr. Maynard suffered from life-threatening injuries and was left with permanent brain damage.
Mr. Maynard was hospitalized for five-months following the accident after being diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). TBI occurs when there is a sudden trauma to the head, which causes brain damage. Disabilities which result from TBI depend on the severity of the trauma and may include: issues with cognition and memory, sensory processing, communication and mental health issues. A person with TBI is never the same as they were prior to the injury.
Snapchat is a popular image messaging app which began its rise to fame under the name “Picaboo”. In 2012, 25 images per second were being sent and received by users. Since then, Snapchat has added video messaging and users are sending and receiving more than two billion videos a day. The Snapchat app also provides various filters to choose from when taking a video or picture.
The Snapchat speed filter at the heart of the Georgia lawsuit has come under fire before. A few months prior to Mr. Maynard’s accident, Ceara Milligan started a petition on change.com demanding Snapchat to remove its miles per hour filter. To date, the petition has not received much support. It does, however, call into question whether Snapchat should have been aware of how young people were using this particular filter, namely to drive recklessly in order to get a picture of their speed.
More than 3,000 people die in car accidents each year. There are currently no real statistics for how many of those accidents were caused due to a driver being distracted by electronic devises, because – unlike alcohol-related accidents – it can be difficult to prove or disprove whether a driver was using a cell phone at the time of impact.
Many states still don’t have laws banning the use of cell phones while driving, and those that do have laws about cell phone use, primarily target only drivers under the age of 18. In Massachusetts, for instance, it is illegal for a driver to text and drive (recent road way signs tell us there is a fine of $105 if you are caught texting and driving). However, only bus drivers and teens under 18 are banned from using their cell phones at all while operating a vehicle.