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One of the fun things about working in social media is seeing how technology is always changing how we deliver content. Five years ago it would have been unheard of to have business pages on Instagram or Snapchat. Likewise, to suggest streaming live video via a social media account was unheard of a few years ago. Granted, services like UStream were available back then, but these platforms were not easy to use. So, most brands didn’t participate. Recently, tools like Periscope, Meerkat, and Facebook Live have made live streaming video so easy, anyone can do it. Now that “going live” on Facebook or Instagram is so easy, it’s also more dangerous.
Our firm has had fun with Facebook Live. It’s great for reaching our clients. We’ve used it mostly for fun, but it shows our clients another side of our firm. It helps them get to know us better. For instance, when we present our Golden Apple Award to a teacher in the Mid-Ohio Valley, we set up a mobile device to stream the announcement live. This practice allows our clients to see a behind the scenes aspect of our firm. It’s safe to say that we use this feature as it is intended. However, we’re aware that a lot of people don’t follow the rules.
Periscope is a lot like Facebook Live, except it has its own app, and it integrates into Twitter easily. Periscope came out before Facebook Live, and many early adopters still prefer this application for live streaming. It was while watching a video on Periscope one evening that I first started to notice people using live video streaming when they shouldn’t. NASCAR driver Tony Stewart was using Periscope while driving home one evening. He was providing commentary about the other motorists, and he was answering questions from his fans. He was doing this all while driving on a rainy interstate. Soon after, I noticed more and more people broadcasting live videos as they drove. It now seems common to see live videos on Facebook, Periscope, and Instagram while users are driving.
Obviously, distracted driving is an issue, and it is nothing new. However, this adds another level to the issue because people are actually recording themselves committing crimes. In most states, it is currently illegal to operate a vehicle while using a non-hands free mobile device. For instance, I follow a local photographer who enjoys filming himself passing cars on rural roads in West Virginia. In one such video, this gentleman clearly passed a car on a double yellow line, essentially passing in a no-passing zone.
It’s easy to argue that what I have seen is minor compared to what has occurred with some live streaming drivers. Earlier this month a Rhode Island man streamed himself driving recklessly on Facebook Live. While on the interstate he was traveling up to 115 MPH and passing cars on the shoulder. He eventually hit a dump truck. Luckily no other motorists were injured.
[youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJdlRGhiDl8″]I believe it’s safe to say that everyone knows that it’s not safe to text/live stream while driving. However, the penalties for drivers who break this law are not very steep. Currently, the West Virginia traffic code does not list specific violations for live streaming. However, our state does have specific laws for texting or using a non-hands-free device while driving. The first offense is $100, the second offense is $200, and the third offense is $300. The third offense also comes with the possibility of points against your license. These fines don’t seem too strict considering that our fines for littering are much stronger. If you are convicted of littering, on your first offense, you could lose points on your license, and your second offense may result in community service. I hate a litterbug at as much as the next fella, but I think a distracted driver should be penalized more. Granted, that is my opinion.
Sadly, the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers is on the rise. In these accidents, injuries or fatalities are likely.
Since we originally wrote this blog, there has been another tragedy making national headlines regarding Live Streaming while driving. Obdulia Sanchez, 18, of California was broadcasting live on Instagram while driving her car. She lost control and crashed the car into a fence. It eventually flipped in a nearby field. Her sister, 14 and a friend, also 14, were ejected from the car. They were not wearing seatbelts.
Sanchez continued to film after the accident and addressed the people watching the video. She addressed the fact that she (likely) killed her sister in the accident. She also mentioned that she was probably going to go to jail for life for what occurred. The other 14-year-old passenger in the car survived.
One thing that does set this example apart from the others is that Sanchez was arrested after the accident for a suspected DUI and Gross Vehicular Manslaughter. She may have been under the influence of alcohol while driving.
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, issued the following statement to NBC News after the accident:
“We’re deeply saddened by this tragedy. We urge people to use our reporting tools if they see any content or behavior that puts anyone’s safety at risk. We want to interrupt these streams as quickly as possible when they’re reported to us, and we will also notify law enforcement if we see a threat that requires an immediate response. We suggest people contact emergency services if they become aware of a situation where the authorities can help.”
If you’ve been injured in a wreck because of a distracted driver, call us today for a FREE consultation. Our Toll-Free number is 1-877-526-3457. If you’d rather talk at a different time, fill out this form and call us at a later time.
Jan Dils, Attorneys at Law