An American couple, whose daughter was killed by a driver allegedly using FaceTime on his iPhone, have launched a lawsuit against Apple.

The lawsuit alleges that the firm should have introduced a feature that disabled use of the video-chat application while driving.

It points to a patent for a such feature for drivers filed by Apple in 2008.

The iPhone maker has not yet responded to requests for comment.

The accident happened on a Texan road on Christmas Eve 2014. Five-year-old Moriah Modisette subsequently died.

The lawsuit states that the parents – James and Bethany Modisette – were seeking damages for “the defendant’s wrongful failure to install and implement the safer, alternative design for which it sought a patent in December 2008”.

The patent, which was issued by the US patent office in April 2014 aimed to lock out users while they were driving.

The driver involved in the crash – Garrett Wilhelm – drove his SUV into the back of the Modisette family’s vehicle while travelling at high speeds.

The lawsuit documents state that he told police he was using FaceTime at the time of the crash and that the application was still active when police found his phone at the scene.

Mr Wilhelm is facing a jury trial on manslaughter charges in February.

Lorry death

The issue of driver distraction has become a big concern to motor safety experts in recent years.

The lawsuit quotes several studies into the use of tech while driving, including one for telecoms firm AT&T which found that 43% of teenagers admitted to texting or emailing while driving.

A study by the RAC recently suggested that the number of motorists illegally using mobile phones at the wheel was rising. The UK government plans to double fines and points on licences for using a mobile while driving.

A BBC Radio 5 live Freedom of Information request to the DVLA revealed that almost 10,000 drivers have been caught twice for being distracted while driving, including using a mobile phone, in the last four years.

Lorry driver Tomasz Kroker was jailed in the UK for 10 years last year after he killed a mother and three children while distracted by his smartphone. The court heard that he had barely looked at the road for almost a kilometre before the crash.