The social media app Snapchat is a phenomenon among millennials. “On any given day, Snapchat reaches 41% of all 18 to 34 year-olds in the United States.” Social media statistics reported in June, 2016 showed that Snapchat has an average daily use base of approximately 150 million. In the same month, it was reported that Snapchat had officially surpassed Twitter in daily user volume. The photo-sharing app’s surge in popularity has been nothing short of meteoric.
But there are dark sides to how this app can be used. What is commonly know about snapchat is that “snaps”, i.e. Snapchat posts, mostly images or videos, disappear after 10 seconds, or, in some cases, 24 hours. There have been many public cases where this ability can be used in cyberbullying, or to send inappropriate or illegal sexually explicit messages.
But recent news reports suggest that the snapchat speed filter that captures a user’s rate of speed in real-time may be encouraging extremely dangerous and potentially deadly speeding behind the wheel.
The Danger of the Snapchat Speed Filter
With the speed filter activated, users can have their photographs and videos display a live speedometer that displays the speed at which they move while taking the photograph or video.
Though no features of the app have actively encouraged raising the speedometer in the filter above a walking pace, some users have come to treat the responsive speed filter as a challenge to be taken in their cars. It’s hard to see why someone would share a snap with the speed filter otherwise, and a high rate of speed is interesting and shareworthy.
The fact that snaps can be shared among a private group, and are ephemeral only adds to the appeal of sharing what is clearly illegal behavior.
Accidents Connected to Snapchat speed filter use have already happened
On the 31st of October, 2016, Jolie Bartolome, 19, uploaded a Snapchat video of Pablo Cortes, 22, from the passenger seat of his Volkswagen Golf as he drove. The speed filter indicated that Cortes’s vehicle was moving at 115.6 miles per hour, and just moments later, it was destroyed and engulfed in flames from a violent head-on collision with a Toyota Sienna minivan.
The Toyota Sienna minivan was being driven by Marianela Murillo, 39, her 18-year old daughter, Lina Bernal, her 9-year old son, John Bernal, her 10-year old daughter, Isabell Bernal, and Luisa Louisa, 15.
The results of the crash left no survivors save for Lina Bernal and Luisa Louisa, who were both taken the hospital with severe injuries. While some onlookers claimed that the collision appeared to be the result of drag racing, the investigating authorities linked the crash to Cortes’s speeding vehicle.
In the Snapchat video showing the moments before Cortes lost control of his car, Bartolome can be heard laughing as he accelerates from an initial speed of 82 miles per hour to his final speed in the triple digits.
Does Snapchat encourage reckless driving stunts?
The Snapchat video showing Pablo Cortes behind the wheel at 115 miles per hour, moments before causing the death of himself and four others, has ignited a heated dialog surrounding the potential effect of Snapchat’s speed filter on reckless driving behavior.
While any cell phone usage behind the wheel is considered distracted driving or a criminally reckless offense, critics of the Snapchat’s speed filter have argued that it potentially exacerbates the problem.
The filter’s provision of an immediate response to speed, some have suggested, could possibly give those with reckless driving tendencies an incentive that clouds their judgment.
A recent story in the UK details a harrowing account of a woman’s Snapchat driving stunt, and notes that 259 people in the world died between 2011-2017 while performing “selfie stunts”.
The front seat passenger was hanging out the car whilst filming a SnapChat video along the #M25. She then fell out the car and into a live lane.— Roads Policing Unit (RPU) – Surrey Police – UK (@SurreyRoadCops) September 19, 2020
It is only by luck she wasn’t seriously injured or killed.#nowords
Facebook Live and driving accidents
Facebook has the ability to live-stream broadcast from anywhere in the world on your phone directly to your Facebook feed. Your friends and followers can watch you in real-time. This is also a trend where people either:
- are talking to their broadcast audience and not paying close attention to their driving
- are deliberate drive dangerously to show off
- actually could be attempting suicide by traffic accident.
A recent case had a man streaming on facebook live while driving over 100mph and was critically insured in a car accident.
Legal consequences of reckless driving in Massachusetts
No matter what the cause for reckless driving may be, it is an offense that is not taken lightly in the state of Massachusetts. Any driver in Massachusetts that is arrested or handed a citation for negligent operation of a motor vehicle, or driving to endanger. These criminal misdemeanors can result in a prison sentence of up to 2.5 years, in addition to heavy fines and a suspended/revoked license.
We can often work to avoid these serious criminal consequences, and can often protect you from a permanent criminal record for minor incidents in hearings before a Clerk Magistrate. However, if there a serious accident or injury, the stakes and risks are much higher.
Can my phone or app usage be tracked after an accident?
Probably. Police can request the data from your mobile provider at the time of an accident to see if you were texting, or using any data from an app. New York state is exploring an option to deploy a “textalyzer” in distracted driving cases, where an officer can use a device to instantly determine your previous cell phone usage in distracted driving cases without having to get the information from a mobile provider later.
Social Media and Criminal Law
Social media is a practically unavoidable part of our lives, and is fully integrated into the daily habits of many Americans. But human nature remains what it is, and while people will act out and make mistakes in ways they always have, doing so via social media can have unfortunate consequences. The possibilities include charges of criminal threatening online or using the snapchat speed filter in dangerous and illegal stunts.
Whatever happened, our attorneys are always ready to help you get past a dumb mistake and avoid the serious criminal consequences. Avoid a charge that can negatively impact your future wherever possible.
Call us today for a free consultation on any criminal charge.