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Spotlight On Domestic Abuse via Technology in Modern Vehicles

With today’s technology making it increasingly simple to track people through their digital footprint, awareness regarding domestic abuse has become alarmingly more necessary. While abusers have always found ways to harass and stalk their victims, recent technology has added an additional layer of complication that can escalate matters quickly, especially when it comes to apps and location trackers in modern vehicles. 

The ever-present tracking programs can be tricky to navigate

One example of a difficult situation when it comes to tracking programs was covered in a recent New York Times article. A woman who was leaving her husband after a violent incident fled their home in the fall of 2022 following an incident and filed a domestic abuse report with the police, successfully securing a restraining order. She started to notice a notification pop up on the screen of her Mercedes that signaled the vehicle was being tracked through an app that her husband had access to. 

Although she was making the payments on the vehicle and had a restraining order in place, Mercedes denied her requests to remove his access since her husband was on the title of the car and was therefore the legal owner. There was no button she could press to take away the app’s connection to the vehicle and she was trapped with the reality that she had no power over him knowing her whereabouts.

High-tech cars can provide unwanted access to abusers

The tricky situation of tracking a car’s location is not uncommon and unfortunately control and power are used in new forms today that were not even an option 10-15 years ago through developing technology. This woman’s car, which was once a private safe space for her, suddenly became a beacon sending her exact whereabouts to someone who was physically restrained from finding her. 

A seemingly harmless app that would be valuable for owners who often misplaced their cars in crowded parking lots, became her biggest nightmare. This level of awareness can be startling for anyone and can turn dangerous when the knowledge falls into the wrong hands. 

Another scenario covered in this same article includes a man in San Francisco using remote access to the Tesla Model X SUV he co-owned with his wife to harass her after they separated. Using his access, he would run the heat in the car to make it uncomfortably hot, turn the AC on full blast on chilly days, and would use the location-finding feature to identify her new residence, which she intended to keep hidden from him.

A great rule of thumb to protect yourself

One thing to note when purchasing or leasing a car is that it’s important to have both names on the account so either spouse can have control. In many instances of domestic abuse via technology in modern vehicles there is a power struggle and the abuser is the one who has the car in their name, often leaving the victim in a very difficult position. Regardless of if you are the one planning on making payments or if your credit is lower than your spouses, you should still be included as an owner on the account so you have equal rights should you need them.

Resources available to you

Domestic violence should always be taken seriously and it’s important to know that there are some helpful resources available to you should you ever need them. Click here to learn more about advocates, safety planning, and other resources available to you or click here for more resources from the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence. At any time, you can call the New York State domestic and sexual violence hotline at 1-800-942-6906.

Get connected to an attorney you can trust

With over 30 years of experience helping people injured in all types of accidents go up against insurance companies, Mark T. Freeley has built strong relationships with other attorneys who skillfully practice in all different areas of law. If you or someone you know needs an attorney to help with a Workers’ Compensation claim, bankruptcy advice, divorce/family law, wills, trusts, estates, elder care, real estate/closings or any other type of legal issue, he can help you find the right attorney for you and your situation.

Reach out to Mark by phone/text at 631-495-9435 or by email at northshoreinjurylawyer@gmail.com, and he will take the time to listen and speak with you.

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