Distracted driving is a problem on our roads. We all have seen drivers with their heads buried in a mobile device. In 2014, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 3,179 deaths and 431,000 injures due to distracted driving. States have laws on their books for using mobile devices but the issue is enforcement. The majority of states cannot simply stop drivers for using the devices. Driver must be stopped primarily for a traffic violation then law enforcement can include the mobile device infraction. Regardless of how your state enforces its districted driving laws, we can agree it is negligent.
Snapchat with its speed filter added another layer to the distraction. The Snapchat speed filter allows users to post their driving speed while taking a selfie. The filter tells users not to use the feature while driving. On September 10, 2015, Georgia teenager, Christal McGee and Wentworth Maynard were in an accident. Mr. Maynard filed suit alleging Ms. McGee’s use of the app caused the car crash. Mr. Maynard suffered traumatic brain injury as a result of the accident. Reports say at the time of the accident, Ms. McGee was driving at approximately 107mph in a 55mph speed limit area.
Snapchat is one of the defendants in the lawsuit. The suit relies in the legal theory of foreseeability. Is it reasonably foreseeable that a person using the speed filter would get in an accident? The suit alleges that prior to this September 2015 crash, there were other accidents where the app was used but Snapchat did nothing. The social media app company will likely argue that it warns drivers not to use the feature while driving. But why warn about something if it is not foreseeable? We will keep an eye on this lawsuit. The outcome may have an impact on app development with an eye on product and consumer safety.