According to a recent story by Milwaukee’s ABC affiliate teens who drive while texting have a reaction time that is worse than those who are under the influence of alcohol or marijuana:
A study found that reaction time for teens who text as they drive slows by 35 percent, which is worse than if they were under the influence of alcohol or marijuana.
According to the report 46% of teens admit to driving while texting. Knowing teens, because I was one once, my guess is that number is low.
Senator Lasee will introduce a bill in January 2009 calling for fines for offenders and even jail time if someone dies because of a texting driver. This legislation failed last year.
Teen drivers need to consider the consequences of their actions. Depending on the facts of the collision I don’t think verdicts including punitive damages against texting drivers are too far in the future.
Wisconsin’s Punitive Damages law states at Section 895.85 Wis. Stats.:
“The plaintiff may receive punitive damages if evidence is submitted showing that the defendant acted maliciously toward the plaintiff or in an intentional disregard of the rights of the plaintiff.”
How does this apply to teens who text? Well, if a teen knows of the dangers of texting or has had near misses or accidents while texting then punitive damages may be possible under Wisconsin law.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court stated:
We conclude that the statute’s requirement that the defendant act ‘in an intentional disregard of the rights of the plaintiff’ necessitates that the defendant act with a purpose to disregard the plaintiff’s rights or be aware that his or her conduct is substantially certain to result in the plaintiff’s rights being disregarded.”
Parents watch your kids. American Family offers a teen safe driver program. More about this later.
Jon Groth is a Wisconsin Personal Injury Attorney handling cases throughout Wisconsin and most recently in Milwaukee, West Bend, New Berlin and Wauwatosa.
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