There is no reason. None at all.
A driver scrolled TikTok on his phone while behind the wheel. His big rig slammed into six cars, leaving five people dead.
TikTok is not that important.
It’s definitely not as important as five people’s lives. But someone thought it was.
On January 12, 2023, 36-year-old Danny Tiner was driving his tractor-trailer on Interstate 10 in Chandler, Arizona, around 6:15am.
Tiner—now charged with manslaughter—ran his rig into stopped traffic on the highway, killing five people. The reason why Tiner failed to stop in time? He was browsing TikTok, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
He originally told officers that he was checking a message on his electronic work tablet and that when he realized traffic ahead of him was stopped, he did not have enough time to stop his truck. Later, examination of Tiner’s phone revealed that he was using TikTok at the time of the crash.
Only Tiner knows his level of addiction to social media, though it seems clear that if he was so dedicated that he needed to be using it while driving, there’s a problem.
Psychologists estimate that as many as 10% of Americans meet the criteria for social media addiction. Lawsuits against Meta Platform Inc. (parent company of Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, and others) allege that these social media platforms cause anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues.
Right now, though, the law would say that the sole person responsible for five deaths on the Arizona highway that day was the person who chose to engage in distracted driving.
2015 “Snapchat crash”
The victim of a 2015 crash sued Snapchat after being injured by a driver using the platform’s “speed filter.” He alleged that the product was designed to encourage dangerous behavior and that the speed filter motivated or encouraged users to drive at excessively dangerous speeds.
At this time, the Snapchat lawsuit is still pending in the courts.
However, it’s unlikely that it would affect the outcome the Tiner case, if there is one. The courts are reluctant to hold software companies or smartphone manufacturers accountable for distracted driving crashes. The difference between a “typical” distracted driving incident like Tiner’s crash and the Snapchat accident in 2015 is that the driver then was using a speed filter specifically designed to encourage unsafe driving.
You can read more about the Snapchat lawsuit here: https://www.enjuris.com/blog/ga/snapchat-speed-filter/
Arizona Hands-Off Law
As of January 2021, Arizona instituted the Hands-Off Law, which makes it illegal to use a standalone electronic device while driving unless the device is in hands-free mode.
Prior to 2021, there were 26 local ordinances with varying hands-free laws, but there was no statewide ban on using handheld devices while driving.
Under the 2021 law, it is against Arizona law to hold or support a device with your body. This includes both hands and clamping a phone on your shoulder or between your legs.
You may not read, write or send a message with any portable wireless device. You also may not scroll through social media, watch videos, record videos, or use the device in any way that causes distraction or requires use of your body.
It seems clear that Tiner was violating this law at the time of the crash. He has been charged criminally but might face a civil lawsuit from the families of the victims, as well.