Thousands of road users around the country are killed or catastrophically injured each year in accidents involving excessive speed. The risk of death or debilitating injury increases along with vehicle speed, and police in two states have voiced concerns about a controversial social media application that they say is encouraging younger motorists in Pennsylvania and across the U.S. to drive dangerously fast.
The software at the center of the growing storm is the popular messaging application Snapchat. Social media users like Snapchat because it allows them to modify their uploaded photographs and videos by choosing from an array of filters, and one of these filters overlays a miles per hour figure to media captured while in motion. Police in Georgia say that a 19-year-old woman was trying to impress her online following by increasing her speed to more than 100 mph just moments before striking an SUV and seriously injuring an Uber driver in September 2015. The woman was subsequently charged with a felony.
Snapchat resisted calls from road safety advocates to withdraw its controversial speed filter following the Georgia collision, but they may find questions about their application more difficult to answer after a crash in Florida claimed the lives of five people on Oct. 26. Police in Tampa say that a 22-year-old man uploaded video to Snapchat showing his speed to be 115.6 mph before striking a minivan head-on. Among the dead were a 38-year-old mother and her young son and daughter.
The modern marketplace is fiercely competitive, and companies can be understandably reluctant to remove features that their customer like. However, companies are expected to do what they can to protect the public from foreseeable dangers, and they may face civil sanctions when this duty is not met. When businesses stubbornly refuse to withdraw dangerous products or features, personal injury attorneys may file lawsuits alleging malicious intent on behalf of those who have been harmed as a result.
Source: Fox 13, Tampa, “Video shows car speeding 115 mph before deadly crash”, Lloyd Sowers, Oct. 28, 2016
Source: The N.Y. Daily News, “Georgia teen sued over Snapchat use in high-speed car crash now facing criminal charges” , Tobias Salinger, June 1, 2016