A Chicago motorist is facing a wrongful death lawsuit after fatally hitting a pedestrian while allegedly updating her Facebook status from her phone, fueling the debate over distracted driving.
Araceli Beas, 21, allegedly struck and killed Raymond Veloz, 70, last December. At the time of the collision, Beas told police she was temporarily blinded by the sun and didn't see Veloz. She was subsequently ticketed for striking a pedestrian.
But earlier this week, Veloz's daughter, Regina Cabrales, filed suit, claiming Beas posted to Facebook at exactly the same time Veloz's cell phone records report a call being made to 911.
Should it proceed, the case is almost certain to be mired in logistical and technological details. Beas's mother, for instance, asserts that her daughter was on Facebook while warming up her car a few minutes before the accident, not while she was driving. Veloz, meanwhile, had a minor altercation with another motorist prior to the fatal crash. The first driver also blamed the accident on poor vision on account of the sun.
The incident is a high-profile entry in the emerging debate around distracted driving, especially as mobile technology finds its way into all aspects of life. Several wireless carriers, led by T-Mobile, are responding to increasing concerns about distracted driving by bringing to market technology that automatically blocks calls and texts when a phone is in a moving car.
Federal regulators are also considering mandating such technology in cars, and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has devoted much energy to the issue. Studies have increasingly shown that communicating via phone while driving quadruples the risk of an accident, making it on par with driving drunk.
By Frank Rule - MobileMedia