Insurance companies, attorneys see increase in distracted driving cases

Honolulu police officers aren’t the only ones coming down on drivers who use their cell phones. Insurance companies are also taking action.

Suspected offenders have to show up in court when they get a citation, and now the issue is popping up in more civil court cases.

Personal injury attorney Richard Turbin says using a cell phone is like driving blindfolded, and people don’t realize how much damage they can cause in just a few seconds.

“It’s a serious problem,” he said. “I must have at least half a dozen cases presently where you have the driver apparently using a cell phone.”

Turbin says if you’re driving 30 miles per hour and you just look down at your phone for five seconds, you’ve already covered several hundred feet of essentially driving while blindfolded.

“People are selfish. They don’t think that they’re ever going to cause an accident,” Turbin said.

But they do, and insurance companies are concerned.

A recent survey by State Farm and Harris Interactive shows drivers using their phone to check the Internet has gone from 13 to 24 percent in four years, and texting while driving is a whopping 69 percent for the youngest drivers, which are the least experienced.

“This is what they have grown up with — social media, Facebook, Twitter,” said Kim Hahn of State Farm. “They’re very comfortable in that world and they tend to feel that it goes hand-in-hand with driving.”

Insurance companies can subpoena phone records to determine if a driver was on a cell phone during an accident.

If the driver was at fault, the insurance company can increase the policy rate or, in some cases, even refuse to renew the policy.

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