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An article in today’s Arizona Republic described the dangers of distractions and driving. According to the Republic, distracted drivers heighten risks of auto accidents:

Driver distractions, ranging from cellphones to eating behind the wheel, are blamed for as many as half the 139,000 collisions that occurred in Arizona during 2005, killing more than 1,100 people and injuring 70,000 others, said DPS Officer Tim Mason, a department spokesman.

The article suggests that distracted drivers increase the odds of a motor vehicle collision by fifty percent.

One form of distraction concerns cellphone use. A recent study published in the Summer, 2006 publication Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society compared the distraction of cellphone use to drinking and driving. Interestingly, the study found that based on risks of motor vehicle accidents, cellphone use in vehicles can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving.

In Arizona based upon the substantial and known risks of harm associated with drinking and driving, a person who makes a conscious decision to drink and drive and as a result causes a collision may subject themselves to an award of punitive damages. If the same substantial and known risks of harm exist for a person who talks on a cellphone and causes a crash, should that person also be subject to an award of punitive damages? What do you think?

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