In one of the thousands of accidents caused by distracted driving each year, a motorist who stopped at a red light on Indiana SR 49 was rear-ended by a semi-truck. The truck driver was sending text messages on his cell phone while operating his rig. As reported by the Northwest Indiana Times, a jury found that the trucker and his employer were responsible for the motorist’s catastrophic injuries and he was awarded $16.5 million.
When the 22-year-old former National Guard serviceman woke up in the hospital, he learned that the trucker was driving at a speed of 65 mph before slamming into his stopped vehicle. The injuries he suffered were severe enough for him to give up any dreams he had of becoming a police officer or train conductor. The life-changing accident resulted in serious orthopedic problems, short-term memory loss and a host of other debilitating health issues. The jury’s verdict included financial relief for the motorist’s loss, but $6.5 million was intended as a punishment against the semi-truck company, Grand Island Express Inc., of Nebraska. The large award may be viewed as a deterrent to other truckers to not send or read text messages while driving.
Indiana law prohibits a driver from emailing or sending text messages from a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. A subpoena or a search warrant is required for law enforcement to investigate a driver’s cell phone records to find activity that may have caused a crash. Although the Hoosier State’s laws do not prevent a driver from talking on a cell phone while driving, doing so carries the possibility of contributing to a motor vehicle accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provides more information on the dangers of distracted driving and the types of in-vehicle activities that may result in injuries or fatalities.