A new class-action lawsuit filed in California earlier this week aims to hold Apple accountable for a number of automobile accidents caused by drivers getting distracted by their iPhones. The folks behind lawsuit are hoping to force the company to install a new safety feature on its devices to prevent users from texting while they are driving.
According to the suit, Apple has possessed the technology required to implement such a feature since 2008, and was granted a patent for it in 2014. The suit alleges that the company has refused to employ the technology out of fear that doing so would cost it market share.
The complaint is seeking an injunction that would halt the sale of all iPhones in the state of California that do not come with such a lock-out feature, as well as a court order forcing Apple to immediately update all iPhones currently on the market to install the feature.
Worse Than Driving Drunk
The suit was filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, January 17, by MLG Automotive Law, on behalf of Julio Ceja, a California resident whose car was struck from behind while stopped at a stoplight, by a driver who was distracted while using her iPhone.
"It has migrated from a menacing problem to a full-blown epidemic of national importance: texting and driving is the single most deadly thing one can do behind the wheel of an automobile," the lawsuit noted. According to the complaint, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said that texting and driving is six times more dangerous than drinking and driving.
"In a recent study conducted by the NHTSA, it was concluded that drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds when sending or receiving a text." The suit added that when driving at 80 miles per hour, that is the equivalent of driving 539 feet, almost the length of two football fields, while wearing a blindfold. The complaint also cited the National Safety Counsel’s 2014 injury and fatality report, which found that cell phone use caused 26 percent of all car accidents in the U.S.
Hundreds of Fatalities Each Year
As many as 1.5 million people may be texting while driving at any given time, according to information from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Meanwhile, the Federal Highway Administration has estimated that California drivers suffer around 500,000 automobile accidents every year. Given Apple's approximate 40 percent market share of the cell phone market, that corresponds to roughly 52,000 accidents a year that are caused by drivers distracted by iPhones in California alone.
Additionally, with approximately 3,000 traffic fatalities in the state annually, the same statistics would imply that every year around 312 fatalities are caused by drivers who are distracted by their iPhones at the time of their accidents.
This lawsuit isn't the only one Apple is facing at the moment. A similar suit against the company was filed a month ago in California's Santa Clara County Superior Court by a family blaming Apple's FaceTime feature for the death of their five-year-old daughter who was riding in the back seat of a car that was rear-ended by a 20-year-old driver. That driver admitted to using FaceTime on his iPhone 6 Plus while driving.
According to that lawsuit, Apple is responsible for the girl's death because of its "failure to install and implement the safer, alternative design for which it sought a patent in December 2008 (later issued by the United States Patent Office in April 2014) to 'lock out' the ability of drivers to utilize the 'FaceTime' application on the Apple iPhone when driving a motor vehicle, which resulted in the injuries sustained by plaintiffs," the girl's family said in the complaint. The family is seeking medical costs and punitive damages.