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Prohibition and litigation, hand in hand



At the very end of the post Wednesday on the new government and activist alliance agitating for a ban on cell phones in cars, we added an afterthought:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also promoting the group, and in earlier posts we had noted the new NHTSA administrator, David Strickland, is a former lobbyist for Association of Trial Lawyers of America, now American Association for Justice. However, this cell phone prohibition campaign began before his Dec. 24 Senate confirmation, and we don't immediately infer an interest in this effort from the plaintiffs' bar.

We had paid insufficient attention to the issue. There's no need to infer. It's explicit.

Distracted driving has been a topic at the American Association for Justice's website, for example here and here. The New York Times in December reported on a woman suing cell companies following her mother's death after her vehicle was struck by an allegedly distracted driver, "A Victim's Daughter Takes the Cellphone Industry to Court."

Various lawyer/advertisers promote the issue, e.g., Jim Adler & Associates, a Texas law firm: "If you or a loved one is harmed by a distracted driver, alert a cell phone accident lawyer or attorney or a car accident lawyer or attorney with Jim S. Adler & Associates. The fight against distracted driving has only just begun."

And from the Matthew D. Kaplan law firm of Portland, "Oregon Distracted Driving Law Takes Effect": "The fact that Oregon now restricts distracted driving may also make the issue the subject of more civil actions around the state. If you have been injured by someone who was inappropriately using a cellphone behind the wheel, consulting with a Portland distracted driving lawyer should be among your top priorities. Even if the police have not issued a criminal citation to an Oregon distracted driver you, as the victim, may be entitled to a substantial settlement."

The combine of government regulators, impassioned activists, politicians and trial lawyers has reshaped America into land of regulation by litigation -- a process that's best served by creating emotion-laden crises that always demand more and more action. That process is well under way on the cell phone/distracted driver issue.

Indeed, for a good description of the prohibitionist fever on the issue, read The Day's account of the news conference Tuesday where Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared, "We're not going to sit around and we're not going to wait for Congress. We're moving ahead."

In all seriousness, we're very sorry for people who have been hurt, reckless drivers ought to be held accountable, and people should put down their cell phones and watch the road.

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Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute
igorodetski@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.