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Close the App Loophole

There are some things worthy of being consumed. Fortunately, the Virginia legislature is still turning its attention to distracted driving. Because drivers do more than text.

The Virginia Lawyers Weekly blog just reminded me that in Virginia, it is still legal for drivers to view apps on their phones like Facebook or Twitter, while they are driving. But the Virginia legislature is paying attention.

Del. Christopher Collins, R-Winchester has introduced House Bill 181 to broaden the existing distracted driving law. It would make it a violation of the law for any use of a cell phone while driving. It would also remove a defense. Currently if a police officer wants to cite you for texting and driving, you could presumably just say that “No, I was just checking my Facebook“.

As Delegate Collins explained,  “This law goes after those individuals who are staring at their phone to the point that it diverts their attention from driving along the road“.

As noted in the blog, Janet Brooking, executive director of Drive Smart Virginia, has indicated that her organization supports the bill.  She explains, “If the bill doesn’t pass, people are going to continue to die,” She referenced that there had been an 11 percent increase in traffic fatalities in the past year in Virginia.

This bill is really about saving lives and changing behavior,” she said. “This is an issue that has to be addressed.

On its face you are probably thinking, “This sounds like a good idea”. Here’s the opposing side according to the blog,

Del. Jeffrey Bourne, D-Richmond, spoke in opposition to the bill on the House floor. He said that while he agreed with the bill in theory, he felt it was written ambiguously and could be used as a precedent for bad acting officers to pull over and harass people, particularly people of color.

My heart goes out to every family who has had to deal with a fatality because of a distracted driving accident,” Bourne said. “But equally important and valuable are those drivers who after a pre-textual stop had a fatal encounter with a bad actor who was charged and responsible for keeping our community safe.

He has introduced a different bill to stop distracting driving, that would make it so that police could only pull people with phones…if they are driving recklessly. I guess his reasoning is a “cause and effect bill“.

So there are two sides of the issue. I am glad that no one is trying to introduce No driving with a coffee cup in hand! Just sayin’!


And for pic o’ day, all I can say is Hahahahahahahaha!



A New Phone Law?

Since Our Blog is a little bit about travel, this seemed like a good start.


Do we need a new phone travel restriction law? Admit it! You get so irritated when you see someone sitting… just sitting in front of you, at a light that has turned green… and they aren’t moving because they are just sitting there talking on their cell phone. Or, maybe it’s just me.

Already, it’s against the law to text. But, Virginia State Senator Scott Surovell re-introduced a bill that was previously voted down on the Senate floor in 2015. A bill that would make it a traffic violation to use your cell phone in hand.  Hands free only.

Senator Scott Surovell today introduced SB 74 which prohibits driving while operating a mobile phone unless it is being used in “hand’s free” mode”.

Here is what the Virginia Transportation Alliance has said about the bill:


The Alliance applauds Senator Surovell’s efforts to find solutions that will help reduce distracted driving. Recent VDOT statistics show that over a 6 year period, approximately 1 in 6 traffic fatalities in Northern Virginia occurred when at least 1 of the drivers involved was distracted,” stated Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance President David Birtwhistle in an email to Potomac Local. “Many more traffic incidents impacting the efficiency of the transportation network are caused by distracted driving. Northern Virginia’s congestion issues will not be solved by such legislation, but every effort to reduce the number of incidents and save lives matters.

The days of having your cell phone in your hand while driving may come to a close after this session. The argument against passage of the bill includes that it may also serve to limit GPS use with your phone. Opponents of the bill believe that it just represents too much government involvement in our driving, and puts more burden on the police to enforce it.

For pic o’ day, this is more like just plain ole phone humor. (Does phone humor really exist?)


The Statistics of Danger?

The World Health Organization tells us that every 8 seconds, someone dies from tobacco use. Cigarettes cause more than one-in-five American deaths. Yet, people continue to smoke. They don’t consult statistics to determine whether they should start smoking; and they don’t continue because of them.

Where are we going to eat tonight? On any given night, that’s said in many households. How often do you think that someone then picks up their iPad and looks up recent health inspection reports, to determine if their choice of restaurant that night is a good place to go? A restaurant health inspection typically does not go into that restaurant decision process.

It’s very easy to look at neighborhood crime statistics, to determine how safe a neighborhood might be. When did you last Google the crime statistics for your neighborhood. Or, how often does a realtor hand crime statistics for a geographical area, when showing a house to a potential buyer? It makes me wonder (as I type this) why I haven’t.

So here is another consideration on statistics. Shaina, a paralegal in our Virginia Beach office, forwarded this article from WAVY-TV, about car crashes where you live. If you knew that more crashes occur at specific intersections throughout Virginia, would it cause you to be more careful at those locations?

Educating drivers is an important part of crash prevention,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “This new feature allows Virginians to see where crashes occur most in their neighborhoods and the factors causing those crashes. With this information, you might use extra caution when traveling through a particular intersection or remind a new driver of the hazards of driving at an unsafe speed on a road near your home where speed-related crashes happen regularly”.

Obviously, the DMV Commissioner thinks that statistics and knowledge will affect our driving. According to the article, the data provided gives a breakdown of high crash locations in the state of Virginia. Of all non-interstate crashes in 2016, 7 of the 10 top locations were in the Hampton Roads area. Would that mean that someone right now is saying, “Best not drive in Hampton Roads”?… said no one anywhere!

Still…the greatest commodity is information!

And for pic o’ day, some motivation of no limitation! Or… be what you want to be?


Calling and Texting While Driving

A crash because a truck driver was not paying attention. (The Post and Courier)  A South Carolina couple was hurt when a truck driver crashed into the back of their car as they slowed to turn into their driveway. The lawsuit alleged that the truck driver was talking on his cell phone when the crash took place. Unifi Inc., a North Carolina-based manufacturer of polyester and nylon yarns, has now settled the couple’s lawsuit for $3.75 million. But the real issue relates to truck drivers talking on cell phones and not paying attention.

The company did have a policy regarding their drivers on the phone while driving; they just did not enforce the policy. According to the article, At the time of the crash, the trucking company had a policy that its drivers could not use their cellphones for longer than two minutes, and only if they were using a wireless Bluetooth device.

According to the evidence in the case, Unifi Inc. did not enforce the rule and phone logs show that the driver involved in the accident, had been using his cellphone for seven hours during the course of his roughly 8½-hour driving shift. During the lawsuit discovery, other phone logs showed that many of their other truck drivers were talking on the phone in the same extended time.

This company has 60 trucks on the road. They now say that they will no longer allow their drivers to use their cell phones while driving.

The Federal Motor Carrier Association (FMCA) approved a regulation in 2012 that banned hand-held phone use by drivers of commercial vehicles. Hands-free phones while driving is still lawful. In South Carolina, the regulation is enforced by the state Transport Police.

I find this article interesting in that it might indicate a movement that stops cell phone use while driving. There are already phone apps available that block texting while driving. Some lawmaker may decide to introduce a blocking app into required driving law. In the meantime, would cell phone companies lobby against this? Are drivers ready for such restriction on a personal level?

And for pic o’ day, speaking of progress:


Pothole Remedy

Four of us were headed back from Durham the other night. I was sitting in the backseat reading my iPad. All of a sudden it felt like we had fallen off the road.

We hit a deep pothole that caused both driver side tires to go flat. It was all at once! And there we were stuck on the side of the road. Not good!

I tell our terrible story to write a practical blog. Right now, the roads are in need of repair because of our recent weather. If your car gets damaged because of the road, it’s possible that you can get reimbursed. Go to the Virginia Department of Transportation for claim information. (HERE) This is the possibility of reimbursement for your car damage:

Can I File a Claim for Damage to My Vehicle?

If drivers hit a pothole and experience damage to their vehicle, they have a legal right to submit a damage claim. Claims are investigated on a case-by-case basis. Investigators review the circumstances, the type and location of the pothole, if VDOT had been previously notified of the issue, and if crews had been given a reasonable amount of time to repair the pothole.

If you have questions about damage claims, contact VDOT’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-FOR-ROAD (1-800-367-7623).

Thankfully we made it back that night, quicker than expected. I hope you have a great weekend. And here is our pic o’ day… for the weekend:


Quite the Driver!

You may have faced some traffic this morning. If you were mad at a driver, you will probably be thankful that it wasn’t this driver:


Sarah Espinosa was recently charged with reckless driving, driving while intoxicated, and unlawful possession of marijuana. There is also a possible reckless endangerment charge pending. But that doesn’t tell the half of it.

This New York woman was arrested after she crashed her Toyota Prius into a firehouse…. with a Python snake wrapped around her neck. And, the Python was stolen. (Reuters)

After she crashed into the firehouse, it was the firefighters that were giving aid to Espinosa, who discovered the snake wrapped around her neck. They removed it and secured it.

The responding police then discovered that the python had been stolen from a nearby pet store shortly before the crash. While securing the Python, they  found the marijuana in her possession.

Police acknowledge that it isn’t clear whether it was Espinosa’s alleged intoxication or the snake that was strangling her, that caused the crash.

She reportedly lost control of her car on the Jericho Turnpike, crossed the median, struck another vehicle and then crashed through the door of the Nassau County fire station. One final note, she also damaged two trucks.

DID YOU KNOW that if you want to burn off the calories after eating one plain M&M candy, you have to walk to full length of a football field?

After that driving story, pic o’ day seems a bit anti-climatic.



GPS: Getting Reckless With It

In a case of first impression, a Judge has ruled that distraction from a GPS could be a basis for punishment damages. (punitive) The logic extends from the same as texting and driving.

In the Pennsylvania case of Rockwell v. Knott, Judge Terrence R. Nealon has recognized a possible cause of action if the evidence is established that

A motorist arguably may engage in recklessly indifferent conduct, and therefore be liable for punitive damages, if (s)he completely diverts his or her attention from the roadway to observe a low-positioned GPS device, and nevertheless continues to travel on the roadway until (s)he collides with another vehicle“.

In the above styled case, the Judge dismissed that punitive claim part of the lawsuit because he did not find that the plaintiff had any evidence, that the jury could consider regarding the GPS distraction; other than the defendant having the equipment and the plaintiff making the claim in the lawsuit.

The Legal Intelligencer reporter points out another case (Kodash v. Latimer 2012) where a Judge allowed evidence of a handheld device as a possible distraction going to the jury, because there was sufficient evidence that the driver had been using the equipment at the time of the crash. Apparently, that was something like a phone operating as a GPS for that driver.

While this Rockwell case did not allow the punitive damage claim to go to the jury, it does allow for the consideration of equipment providing distraction to the driver. Based on this case, I can see the day when a GPS system could be like texting, and recognized as a driving violation. The more technology that we have, the more temptation to use it while driving.

Now, let’s stay with the equipment theme.maskcharge

Because we have just started the NFL  football season, it seemed timely to start with a DID YOU KNOW football fact. In 1888, the college football rules convention voted that players could now tackle below the waist. DID YOU KNOW that it wasn’t until 1905 that equipment like protective pads really became a part of football.

The Chicago Tribune did a story in 1905, on the injuries and deaths that were occuring regularly in football. President Theodore Roosevelt issued a statement that “I demand that football change its rules or be abolished. Brutality and foul play should receive the same summary punishment given to a man who cheats at cards!” (Ideological Critism Of the National Football League’s Increase In Helmet To Helmet Discipline)

The NFL was slow to make helmets mandatory. The last known player to play without a helmet was Dick Plasman of the Chicago Bears. He played in the 1940 NFL Championship game where the Bears beat the Redskins 73-0.

And on to a Monday pic o’ day:


Seat Belt Counting

     Virginia’s relies on good old-fashioned research. It hires students to count the people wearing seatbelts in vehicles.

     Seatbelt counting

     OK, I know that I shouldn’t, but doesn’t this give me another excuse to post Eli Manning’s picture?


     I know, I am probably the only person that sees humor in this. So, just bear with me. Pretend that it really does make the point that he is really watching and paying attention. What… not so much?

     Anyway, PilotOnline reports that Virginia has hired surveyors to stand on the side of the road and look into cars, to see if people are wearing their seat belts. Those hired are trained to mentally capture about a half-dozen details in about 3 seconds, as cars pass by. Was the driver male or female? On a cellphone? Was the passenger wearing a seat belt?

     All this is done to collect data all across Virginia, to help contribute to a constant collection of research on safety “in the Commonwealth”. The workers are paid through a grant with salary, or an average per hour pay of about $12-$15 dollars per hour, on a contract basis. Each survey lasts about an hour per location.

     Currently, Virginia is one of seventeen states that classifies a “failure to wear a seat belt” as a secondary offense; which means that a person can only be ticketed for not wearing their belt,  if they have another traffic violation as well.

     The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated last year that there was a marked increase of Virginians wearing their seat belts. That translated into Virginia having about 36 fewer traffic deaths, 544 fewer serious injuries and $138 million less in costs.

     According to the surveys, last year about 78.4% of daytime drivers were wearing seat belts. It found that male drivers buckled up at a rate of about 7% less than female drivers. However, as one surveyor put it, she has seen, “little, old grandmas driving to church” not wearing their seat belts while “hard-looking teenagers with their music blaring” are cautiously strapped in.

     All of it is a reminder to wear our seat belts. Currently, there is also a move to change the law and make the failure to wear a seat belt, a stand-alone traffic offense.

     And now for pic o’day… a bit self-explanatory:

FB Pose

How About a New Habit?

I always seem to get the same answer, when I ask the defendant about speed at their deposition. It does something like this: “How fast were you going?” “Well”, the defendant will say with a look of uncertainty, “I was going just under the speed limit.” “How do you know”, I ask. “Out of habit, I know that I was just going a little under the speed limit”.

Mornings bring out the certainty of habit. Some people get out of bed when the alarm goes off or they get up without the need of the alarm. Others, out of habit, will hit that snooze bar a few times. When I mention habit, I’m sure that something comes right to your mind about something that you do everyday.

I know that I drive the same way, every day, out of habit. I could take different routes to work. I guess that if I were trained by the CIA, I would go a different way. Isn’t that what they train to do or have I read too many spy novels?

When I am doing discovery in any case. I do try to find out about the habits of opposing parties. Do they get their car regularly inspected? Do they regularly take medications? Do they drive aggressively? In fact, the only things that can be introduced as past conduct about bad driving relates to whether you can establish habit. If they drink, have they already been previously convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol?

You and I both have good and bad habits. Calling someone or stopping by to see them might be a good habit. Forming good habits is discussed from an online post of Here what it says as a good plan for starting a new good habit:

Building new habits

Start slowly: Go to bed and wake up fifteen minutes earlier for a few days until this new schedule seems doable.
Monitor your energy: Building a new habit takes effort, so take care of yourself while you’re trying. Eat right, eat enough, and surround yourself with supportive people who want to see you succeed.
Choose one new habit at a time to introduce: If you want to run, pray, and write in a journal, choose one of these and make it a habit before adding another.
Chart your progress: Habits take weeks to establish, so keep track of how you’re doing for at least thirty days. Once skipping a session feels like you forgot something–like forgetting to brush your teeth–you can take your ritual up a notch.
Feel free to use bribery: Eventually habits produce their own motivation, but until then, external motivations like promising yourself concert tickets can keep you moving forward. Choose things you enjoy: your before-breakfast ritual has the potential to become your favorite part of the day.

And for pic o’ day, I post another funny one from my mom!

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