Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

Summary: A wrongful death lawsuit is accusing a driver of updating Facebook on her cell phone, after she killed another driver standing outside of his car.

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21-year-old Chicago motorist Araceli Beas has been accused of attempting to update her Facebook page on her cell phone when she allegedly struck and killed 70-year-old Raymond Veloz. The victim's daughter, Regina Cabrales, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court, asking for an unspecified amount of money, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Cabrales alleges in her suit that Beas operated her vehicle without keeping a proper and sufficient focus, drove while using an electronic communication device, and failed to slow down to avoid an accident. As proof, she points to the fact that Beas' Facebook page showed an update posted at 7:54 AM on December 7, 2010, which is the same time that Veloz's cell phone records showed a call being made to 911.

Veloz had exited his vehicle after getting into a minor accident with another motorist at around 7:30 AM. He was standing near the other driver's vehicle exchanging information when he was struck by Beas. His right leg was partially severed, and he lost too much blood. Veloz was pronounced dead at around 9:30 AM in a nearby hospital.

Beas told police that she had been temporarily blinded by the sun at the time of the collision, which resulted in a ticket for striking a pedestrian in the roadway. The driver involved in the earlier minor collision with Veloz told officers at the time that they had been temporarily blinded by the sun as well. Beas' mother, Rosario Rodriguez, came to her daughter's defense claiming that she posted the Facebook update as she sat in her car while waiting for it to warm up outside her boyfriend's home, which is located two miles away from where the crash occurred.

Cabrales' lawyer, David Wise, acknowledged that he still needs to figure out whether the timing mechanisms of both Veloz' cell phone and Beas' were in sync. He also must verify whether Beas' Facebook page did, in fact, update immediately.

Topics: Hardware, Collaboration, Mobility, Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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40 comments
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  • There will be little doubt.

    The timing and billing record will tell the tale. The networks are likely all synced to the national government NTP server. Whether FB updated "instantly" or not is not the question, look at the timestamps on the billing records and call records.

    TripleII
    TripleII-21189418044173169409978279405827
    • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

      @TripleII
      Except this is Chicago. My sister got a ticket for talking on a cell-phone (not hands-free), and even after she provided her cell-phone records to show that she didn't place a call in an almost 2 hour window around that time, the ticket still went against her. Even the judge didn't care. In other words, what the cell phone records say means absolutely squat to Johnny Law in Chi-town.
      reziol
      • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

        @reziol : But was sheusing the phone for something else? Text messaging? Surfing? It's all lumped into one category. They don't have separate tickets for talkking, texting, and surfing.
        Gis Bun
      • Are you sure about that?

        When i was in America last year I started to wonder it the Law was slightly different there from here in Australia. I saw so many people talking on their cell phones while driving that it appeared to me that the law REQUIRED people to use their Cell phones while driving because there seemed to be far more people with phones held up to their ears than not. But Maybe that is just New jersey?
        BoneLazy
    • Good idea but not enough dimensions

      @TripleII, there's the possibility she clicked "send message" and put the phone away before waiting until it posted. On a slow 2g connection, it's really likely that it could have taken several minutes to post.

      Facebook has pretty good timing, but it's entirely possible the posting time is not 100% accurate. Since they don't appear to be regulated as to whether their records should be accurately time stamped, there's 1000 reasons why the clock could be inaccurate. First thing that comes to my mind is that the NTP daemon on the server has failed to connect recently and system clock is running off of the performance counters of the CPU (which is common) and has transitioned between power saving and full power enough times that the speed step glitches added up. A 2-5 minute clock skew is really not hard to imagine. I have several machines in my house that are "NTP synced" that occasionally forget about that and once I found a machine that had forgotten in 5 months earlier and was 7 hours off.

      Unless Facebook is required by law to maintain correct time signatures, I'd say that your argument while interesting is invalid.

      Of course, this case makes a valid point that Facebook is now a legitimate record keeping source and should be required by law to maintain a guaranteed time sync. It's wouldn't be hard to make a requirement that each server not only uses NTP but also has a means of monitoring skew.
      submux
  • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

    Are we really supposed to believe she was more interested in updating her Facebook than the fact she's just hit (and mortally wounded) a pedestrian?
    jeremychappell
    • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

      @jeremychappell

      I think the point they are trying to make that the person driving was updating FB while driving therefore did not see the person on the road and hit them.

      All I have to say if the person was updating FB or texting then they should be punished more harshly. I am sorry I see it more and more where people have their phones in their hand doing crap they do not need to while driving. I rarely answer the phone while driving let alone attempt to text or post to FB. It's just stupid to do that I work in a high school and we have had two major deaths because of situations like that. One of them killed 3 kids in the car because the driver was texting. Some may think the laws are silly but there is a reason that they are there. All cars should be equipped with bluetooth as a safety feature and the driver be shown how to use it just like a seatbelt or airbag.
      bobiroc
      • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

        @bobiroc The point I was trying to make was if the "Facebook update" happened around the time of the crash it stands to reason she'd been updating it while driving (after all, who is going to update their Facebook AFTER hitting someone?) For me, the fact that she'd been updating Facebook while driving shows she's not paying sufficient attention to driving. I'd convict on this evidence alone.

        Mobile phones are a menace while driving, here in the UK attitudes are changing, and using a mobile phone while driving is fast becoming socially unacceptable (like drinking and driving).

        I too work at a school (albeit part time), and I totally agree with your views - every life is precious, someone's child or parent, partner or friend; they should not be squandered for a text message or Facebook update.

        Using a phone while driving is wrong.
        jeremychappell
      • Hands free isn't the issue, attention to driving is.

        Bluetooth won't help. The issue is not hands free operation but the inability of the human brain to cognitively multitask to give sufficient attention to the task of driving which requires most of the brain's awareness when driving. Humans are just not wired for this type of activity.
        Wolflead6
      • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

        Bluetooth may not be the answer for taking a phone call, but there is no excuse for texting, updating FB, etc. while driving. Might as well be reading the sports page. People just don't take driving seriously enough.
        boomchuck1
      • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

        @bobstaggers You're largely right about bluetooth/handsfree kits. Studies have shown the problem to be composed of two aspects of human cognition; the inability to multitask or taskswitch efficiently (one study showed only 1 in 200 participants was able to perform two simultaneous tasks as effectively as one) and the high priority we instinctively place on social interaction, thereby innately prioritising talking to Mum about the shopping over not hitting the pedestrian.

        When the other party to the conversation is remote we dedicate even more attention to the conversation because we lack the body language clues that we rely on for effective communications.
        andrew.stephen@...
      • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

        @bobstaggers and andrew.stephen, I took the test mentioned (during another study) and was one of the lucky few. I've always been interested in this topic and have been training my mind for multitasking since youth. For example, practicing talking on the phone with one ear, listening to an audio book using the other and reading another book at the same time. Eventually, I got to the point that the person I was talking to couldn't tell I was doing anything else and afterwards, I was able to pass tests with the same average grades as when I only did one thing at a time. I don't believe I'm a natural with this, but instead that it can be learned with practice. I can only describe it as an issue of focus.

        That said, I still don't feel comfortable talking and driving at the same time. And I've only had one accident in the past 15 years and sadly, it was my fault for not having spent the extra $50 on a better set of tires. The snow got me. You have to respect the road and realize that even if you're paying 100% attention to the chaos around you, its still not enough. I like to joke that if we were designed to respond to events while moving at 100 miles per hour, we wouldn't need cars but would simply have the physical ability to do it on our legs.

        Now, the real issue at hand isn't whether people can or can't multitask while driving, it's a matter of how we can make it safer as there's absolutely no possible way we'll stop them from doing it. To suggest that just because a study says it's still dangerous to use a hands free we shouldn't take that route, in reality, we should study how much of a difference there is between the two. I believe you'd find that while we know it's still dangerous to talk on a phone while driving, it's still safer than either leaning your head to the side to cradle the phone or consuming a hand to hold it.

        I am willing to assume that driving with full normal function of your hands and head is safer than driving with one less hand or a ridged neck.
        submux
    • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

      @jeremychappell
      Her attorney is saying that she updated her FB status "before" she started driving - while she was parked in front of her house waiting for the car to warm up. Not while she was driving like the decedent's daughter and attorney are claiming.
      reziol
      • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

        @reziol : OK. Then if not updating Facebook, then she still gets charged with manslaughter [or whatever]. I'm sure she can still get taken to court for civil damages. After all, it is the US - home of liberty, lawyers and justice for all.
        Gis Bun
    • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

      @jeremychappell : People are stupid. They do not care about the others around them.
      Gis Bun
  • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

    I'm just waiting for all the anti facebook trolls to come out and drone on about the evils of social networking...

    IF Beas was on FB (or texting or otherwise engaged in an activity distracting her from driving) then she should be charged for the crime and punished accordingly. If she was (as she claims and other witnesses at the scene appear to be collaborating) blinded by the sun then it is in the end an unfortunate and tragic accident.
    athynz
    • Evil, no; Useless, yes

      Was always curious about what on earth all these Facebook members spend so much time doing on Facebook?
      Wolflead6
      • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

        @bobstaggers In my case keeping up with old friends and family who I'm unable to see in person often due to residing across the US continent... sure picking up the phone might be easier but to me it is priceless to see pics of my nephews and the next best thing to seeing them in person every day. And recently keeping up with the condition of my best friend's wife who was recently hospitalized and had her baby delivered 4 months early.

        Perhaps Facebook is useless to some and I can understand how one would feel that way but to me it is at times an invaluable tool. It is not however the be all, end all that a lot of other people claim it to be.
        athynz
    • Another word for Accident

      Our Culture needs another word for Accident. Most of them aren't. An Accident is an unforeseeable event. There is actually a fairly high probibility that there would be something on that road that shouldn't be there. If it is true that she couldn't see properly then she should have slowed down considerably. Had the object in the road been thew back end ofa truck then it probably would be this ladies funeral instead. If she was going fast enough to cause serious injury when she had poor viability then to my mind she is just as culpable. The Crime should be called "Driving while stupid"
      BoneLazy
  • RE: Driver sued for updating Facebook during fatal crash

    How low can a lawyer go? the woman obviously deserves to get sued, but not for any facebook posting. She deserves to get sued for driving to fast for conditions. If she can't see, she should have stopped! Why isn't that obvious to more drivers?
    Al_nyc