As was reported recently, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against a sheriff’s deputy who was apparently distracted by his mobile digital computer when he fatally struck a cyclist and prominent entertainment attorney in Calabasas in December.
He was riding his bicycle in the bicycle lane when the deputy’s patrol car hit him. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The deputy was reportedly returning from a fire call at the time of the collision.
Even though the deputy was inattentive by typing into his mobile computer in his patrol car, the district attorney’s office reported, the deputy “was acting within the course and scope of his duties when he began to type his response” and “he acted lawfully.” In short, the law does not prohibit officers from using an electronic wireless communications device while on duty.
The cyclist’s family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the county, the sheriff’s department and the deputy, alleging driver negligence and seeking to obtain more information about the incident.
The situation is similar to another case handled by the Bakersfield personal injury law firm Chain | Cohn | Stiles, in which two people were struck and killed by Kern County Sheriff’s deputy patrol car as they were legally crossing a street. The deputy was driving 84 mph in a 45 mph zone before hitting them, as was responding to a call of a stolen vehicle; however, his emergency lights and siren were not turned on.
In March, the wrongful death case settled for $8.8 million, believed to be record-breaking for an automobile accident case against the County of Kern. Read more about the case here. In the criminal case, the deputy took a plea deal, and was sentenced today to 480 hours of community service. During his sentencing, the deputy apologized for the crash.
Simply, distracted driving is dangerous. The attorneys at Chain | Cohn | Stiles have provided tips in their website for drivers to avoid distracted driving.
- Use your electronic device only when parked, or have a passenger use it.
- Never use an electronic device or take notes while driving.
- If your phone rings while driving, let the cellular voice mail service take the call and listen to the message later when you are parked.
These tips are meant to protect you, your family, and everyone else on the road. Other tips include:
- Pay attention to the road: Do not take notes or look up phone numbers while driving. If you are reading an address book or business card while driving a car, or writing a “to-do” list, then you are not watching where you are going. It’s common sense. Don’t get caught in a dangerous situation because you are reading or writing and not paying attention to the road or nearby vehicles.
- Do not engage in distracting conversations: Stressful or emotional conversations and driving do not mix. They are distracting and even dangerous when you are behind the wheel. Make people you are talking with aware you are driving. If necessary, suspend phone conversations which have the potential to divert your attention from the road.