Licensed in Missouri and Kansas

Is Zooming While Driving Negligence in Missouri?

An Ohio senator made headlines this week when he was caught Zooming while driving during a committee meeting. He tried to hide the fact he was driving by changing his background to a picture of his office. His ruse was busted by the highly visible seatbelt strapped across his chest and when he looked in his mirrors and over his shoulders several times. The senator claims he was able to pay sufficient attention to the road while in his Zoom meeting. Would he be liable to pay damages if he had crashed into someone? In other words, is Zooming while driving negligent? We’ve handled hundreds of car crash cases and here’s what the law would have to say about that, at least in Missouri where we handle the majority of our cases.

First, Missouri law requires people to drive with the highest degree of care. This means the degree of care that a very careful person would use under the same or similar circumstances. Would a very careful person think its OK to attend a Zoom meeting while driving? In my experience trying cases to a jury and doing focus groups, I think a jury would deem Zooming while driving as not exercising the highest degree of care.

Furthermore, Missouri law requires drivers to keep a careful lookout. Part and parcel of driving with the highest degree of care is keeping a careful lookout. Can you be on a Zoom call while driving and keep a careful lookout? To decide that, we need to examine what effect Zooming has on ones attention while driving. Does Zooming while driving distract one’s attention from the road ahead and prevent someone from keeping a careful lookout?

According to a 2019 study by Lanfang Zhang in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “talking and listening leads to a decrease in the sensitivity of the driver’s control operation, and the degree of influence is no different from other manual–visual operations.” In other words, hands-free phone use while driving, including Zooming, is just as distracting as texting or looking at your phone.

Science and common sense say that Zooming while driving is negligent. If a driver does that, and crashes into someone, that driver is liable for the damages they cause (at least in Missouri). If you’ve been the victim of a driver’s negligence and have questions about your rights, please don’t hesitate to contact our firm for a free consultation.