The Law Blog of Oklahoma

One Dies as Distracted Driver Crashes into OKC Restaurant

Posted: Tuesday, August 05, 2014

In the past, if you heard of a car crashing into a building late at night, you would assume that the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or that he or she suffered a medical event. Now, though, it becomes increasingly likely that such a terrible accident is caused by a driver who is distracted by a cell phone.

Such is the case in an accident that occurred last night in Oklahoma City. A woman driving a van crashed into the Pizza Planet restaurant last night at approximately 10:15 p.m. According to police, the woman was reaching for her phone when she drifted across the lane, struck a curb, and crashed into the front of the building. The front of the restaurant collapsed, crushing a man who was standing nearby. The man was transported to a local hospital, where he died of his injuries.

As of this writing, the case is still under investigation and the 27-year-old driver has not been cited pending the outcome of the investigation.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides law enforcement with a list of visual cues for detecting DUI drivers. Each of these driver behaviors is accompanied by a risk level, or a statistical likelihood that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For example, problems maintaining lane position--including weaving or drifting across lanes--carries a probability of 0.50 to 0.75 that the driver is intoxicated. Weaving plus any other cue (speed and braking problems, vigilance problems, and judgment problems) demonstrates a minimum probability of DUI at 0.65.

However, when looking at the characteristics of an intoxicated driver, as indicated by the NHTSA, it becomes quickly apparent that the behaviors exhibited by drunk drivers are the same behaviors exhibited by a distracted driver, and in particular, a driver who is distracted by texting or using a cell phone:

  • Weaving
  • Drifting
  • Speeding
  • Driving too slowly
  • Inconsistent speed
  • Braking too suddenly or for no apparent reason
  • Failing to observe traffic signs and signals
  • Running red lights

Think about how many times you have seen a driver who is driving too slowly, taking too long to observe a green light, drifting across center or edge lines, or other similar behaviors. There was a time when you would likely have assumed the driver to be drunk. Now, however, your first thought may be, "Put down the phone and drive!"

Distracted driving is more than just a nuisance, though. It is dangerous and deadly. Because of one woman's decision to reach for her phone while driving, an innocent bystander is dead. We encourage you to put down your phone when driving. Put it out of reach where you won't succumb to the temptation to check your messages or place a call. If you must make a phone call en route, find a safe place to pull over until you place and complete your call.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a distracted driver, there is no amount of compensation that can ease your pain. However, a personal injury lawyer can help you achieve the fullest measure of compensation available for your losses, damages, and suffering. Call today for a free consultation to find out what we can do for you.

Image Credit: Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman

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