Several studies have found that a disturbing number of motorists in Illinois and around the country feel that sending text messages, making phone calls and even watching videos while behind the wheel are acceptable. While companies like Twitter and Facebook have been criticized by road safety advocates and law enforcement figures for not doing enough to deter this kind of behavior, the company behind the popular Snapchat messaging application has been accused of encouraging motorists to drive at dangerous speeds.
Snapchat has become wildly popular partly because the application allows its users to modify their videos and photographs with filters. One such filter automatically places miles per hour figures on uploaded content, and at least two fatal car crashes have been blamed on younger drivers deliberately exceeding posted speed limits to impress their social media followers. Critics of the application say that Snapchats warnings and statements are designed to insulate the company from liability and do little to protect road users.
Two children were killed along with their mother when the minivan they were traveling in was struck by a speeding vehicle in October 2016. Police discovered that the 22-year-old man responsible had been posting a video on Snapchat using the controversial speed filter just minutes before the crash. The young man also lost his life in the collision along with his 19-year-old passenger. In September 2015, an Uber driver suffered a traumatic brain injury after his vehicle was struck by a Mercedes traveling at more than 100 mph. The 18-year-old woman behind the wheel was also posting on Snapchat and using the application’s speed filter at the time of the crash.
While personal injury attorneys will generally file lawsuits on behalf of car accident victims against negligent drivers or their insurance providers, manufacturers, software designers, law enforcement agencies and local authorities may also face litigation if they fail to take reasonable steps to address foreseeable dangers. This kind of litigation may be initiated when accidents are caused by defective car parts, poorly lit or inadequately repaired roads or software that encourages reckless behavior.