On Thanksgiving Day in 2008, nine-year-old Erica Forney of Fort Collins, Colorado, died. She didn’t have a terminal illness. She wasn’t playing with matches or an unattended gun. Two days before Thanksgiving, she was riding her bike home from school, the way she did every day. Just two houses away from her own, she was hit by a two-ton SUV. She sustained a head injury which led to her death. The woman behind the wheel of the SUV was using her cell phone while driving.
This is becoming an all too common news story. Someone crashing their car while texting. Someone hitting a pedestrian while talking on their cell phone. Sometimes the driver is injured or killed, as was recently the case in Georgia when an 18-year-old girl died in an accident just two days after she graduated from high school. Authorities believe she was texting while driving. But more often, the driver causes the injury or death of others through their carelessness and irresponsibility.
Texting and driving has become what drunk driving was in the ’80s. That irresponsible behavior launched national campaigns, public service announcements, and non-profit groups intent on doing away with driving under the influence. It worked, to a degree, and the number of accidents caused by alcohol has been greatly reduced over the last three decades. Driving and texting, or just talking on a cell phone, is now gaining national attention as the number of accidents, injuries, and deaths caused by this activity continues to rise.
In January of 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a federal ban on texting by commercial vehicle drivers. It applies to large trucks, like those that transport goods across the country, and buses. The DOT has even launched an initiative to end distracted driving, going so far as to team up with Oprah Winfrey, who has launched her own campaign against distracted driving, called the No Phone Zone.
Winfrey has required all of her employees to sign a pledge stating they will not conduct business over their cell phones while they drive, and asks every guest who appears on her show, as well as audience members to sign the same pledge.
It was, in part, Erica’s death that encouraged Oprah to embark on her mission to get people to give up using their cell phones while driving. The girl’s death was also an impetus for the state of Colorado to pass a ban on texting while driving. The bill started out as a total cell phone ban, which would also cover talking on the phone while driving, but was reduced to address texting alone.
If you’re involved in an accident caused by a driver who texts while driving, you are protected by Colorado law. An attorney can help you understand your rights. And because of Erica Forney’s untimely death, a Fort Collins accident attorney will be especially familiar with this type of case.
If even one accident is avoided because one person chooses not to use their cell phone while driving, Erica Forney will not have died in vain.