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Snapchat Lawsuit Highlights the Many Forms of Distracted Driving

CHICAGO (April 27, 2016) – Snapchat, an increasingly- popular app that is now worth more than $19 billion, can serve as a great communication tool. The app allows you to send videos or pictures of yourself with a filter or a caption, and then disappears after viewing. But the app has also proved to be extremely dangerous, and even deadly, when used recklessly. The Chicago law firm Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., is reminding young drivers and their parents of the very real dangers of using social media when operating a vehicle.

Last year, an Atlanta Uber driver was seriously injured when the vehicle he and his wife were travelling in was struck by an 18-year-old woman who was using the Snapchat speed filter. This filter adds the user’s speed to their picture and gives them a “trophy” for posting how fast they were going. A lawsuit has now been filed in Georgia naming Snapchat as a defendant (Wentworth Maynard and Karen Maynard v. Christal McGee and Snapchat, Inc.).

READ MORE | Snapchat speed filter blamed for 107 mph highway accident

According to the complaint, McGee was using the filter when she struck the Maynard family’s vehicle. McGee was allegedly trying to get the car to 100 miles per hour to post on Snapchat. When the cars collided, the speed was 107 mph. As a result of the crash, the driver suffered permanent brain damage.

The complaint alleges that Snapchat created an unnecessary danger to the public with the filter, that Snapchat was aware of the dangers associated with using the filter, and was negligent in failing to remove or restrict access to the speed filter.

A spokesperson for Snapchat has denied responsibility, asserting that Snapchat has an in-app warning discouraging people from using the speed filter while driving. Further, the terms and conditions of the app provide:

“We also care about your safety while using our Services. So do not use our Services in a way that would distract you from obeying traffic or safety laws. And never put yourself or others in harm’s way just to capture a Snap.”

The dangers with using Snapchat aren’t limited to using the speed filter, but go to the larger issue of distracted driving. A Department of Transportation (DOT) report found that on average 1.5% of drivers use their phone at the wheel. Young people aged between 17 and 29 are four times more likely to use their mobile phone while driving than older drivers. Further, roughly two- thirds of those drivers were using their cell phones to text or for access to social networking websites such as Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook. A survey conducted by Braun Research on behalf of AT&T found that drivers are becoming more bold, with one in 10 responding that they video chat while driving .

Checking social media networks, posting selfies, or texting while driving can have serious consequences. One study found using mobile phones to access social media sites when behind the wheel can be more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol. In fact, reports research undertaken by the Transport Research Laboratory and the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) found that drivers’ reaction times slowed by 38 percent when using their mobile phones to access sites such as Twitter and Facebook while controlling a moving vehicle. In contrast, drunk drivers driving just above the legal limit have a typical delayed reaction of just 12 percent.

Brian L. Salvi, an attorney at Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C., notes, “While the court will ultimately determine if Snapchat should be held responsible for its role in encouraging speeding, parents should remind their children about the very real dangers of distracted driving. Whether a teen driver causes an accident while checking social media sites, or is the victim of someone else’s distracted driving, his or her life can change in an instant.”

Patrick A. Salvi

Patrick A. Salvi concentrates his legal practice in several limited areas primarily involving a trial practice in cases concerning serious personal injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death, and mass torts. Mr. Salvi has achieved record-breaking jury verdicts and settlements on behalf of his clients, including serving as lead counsel in obtaining an Illinois record-high $148 million jury verdict and a Lake County record $33 million jury verdict.

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