Distracted Driving – Don’t Text and Drive

using cell phone while drivingHave you ever driven while distracted? Chances are you have. Take a look at this list: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as any activity that could divert a driver’s attention away from driving, including texting, eating, talking to passengers, adjusting a radio or MP3 player, grooming, reading or using GPS. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that each day at least nine people die in vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving. This amounts to over 3,285 deaths each year. Many more are injured. While distracted driving of all types causes accidents, statistics show that texting is one of the leading causes of these accidents. In response to the growing problem of texting while driving, many states – including Pennsylvania – have passed laws making it illegal to text and drive. However, according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, by and large drivers do not believe that distracted driving, particularly texting while driving, is a significant problem. In fact most believe that they can text, eat, groom, read or engage in other activities while driving and remain completely focused on driving.  

Prevalence of Cell Phones and Texting

texting using cell phone in the carWhile once a novelty, nowadays practically every adult and many minors have cell phones. In fact, according to one study, as of 2013 over 91% of adults use cell phones, while in 2004 only 65% of adults used cell phones. Furthermore, the percentage of cell phone users jumps to 97% for those who are between the ages of 18-34, and to 96% for those between the ages of 35-44. Cell phones have changed since they first became common in the 1990s. Early cell phones were used only as phones. Now the vast majority of phones are smartphones. With smartphones users can send and receive text messages, email messages, and chats. Users can also surf the internet and perform countless other activities using apps. Text messaging is the most common cell phone activity. Each month over 153 billion text messages are sent in the U.S. With so many Americans using cell phones, it is not surprising that many of those who own cell phones also use them while they are driving. The CDC reports that 31% of U.S. drivers between the ages of 18 and 64 self-reported that they have texted while driving. The CDC survey focused on texting within 30 days of the survey. This means that the actual number of drivers who have ever texted while driving is likely significantly higher.  

Danger of Texting While Driving

Any activity that causes a driver to even momentarily shift focus from driving or looking away from the road could potentially lead to a devastating accident. Texting while driving presents a particularly high risk.
  • Texting while driving results in drivers taking their eyes off the road for an average of 23 seconds
  • Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%
  • If you text while driving, you are more than twice as likely to get into a crash or a near crash.
It is important to understand that “texting” while driving does not only refer to sending a brief, text-only message from one phone to another. In the context of distracting driving, texting refers to any type of use of an electronic communication device, including texting, emailing, chatting, instant messaging or surfing the internet.  

Pennsylvania’s Texting While Driving Law

no texting while drivingAll states mandate that drivers drive in a safe manner. Forty-one states, including Pennsylvania, have laws that specifically ban texting while driving. Pennsylvania’s texting while driving law provides the following:
  • Drivers are prohibited from communicating using Interactive Wireless Communication Devices (IWCDs) while in motion.
  • Prohibited devices include wireless phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), smartphones, portable or mobile computers or similar devices that can be used for texting, instant messaging, emailing or browsing the Internet.
  • Communication is defined as a text message, instant message, email or other written communication composed or received on an IWCD.
The fine for violating this provision is $50. Fines in other states are similarly low.  

Legal Help for Victims of Distracted Driving

The prospect of getting a $50 ticket may not be much of a deterrent for most drivers. After all, $50 is not a lot of money, and it is not likely that a police officer would even catch a driver in the act of texting while driving. However, if someone causes an accident because he or she was texting while driving, then the financial stakes are significantly higher. If you were injured in an accident because of the negligence of a distracted driver, you may be able to hold that person financially accountable through a personal injury lawsuit. With a personal injury lawsuit there are number of different types of damages that you may be able to recover:
  • pain and suffering distracted drivingMedical expenses. The person responsible for the accident that caused your injuries may be required to pay for your medical expenses. This would include emergency room treatment, hospital stay, ambulance service, visits to the doctor, prescriptions, and physical therapy.
  • Lost wages. Even a relatively minor accident may cause you to miss time at work. The person responsible may be required to pay the wages you lost. If you end up using earned sick days or vacation days, you may be entitled to receive compensation for those days. Furthermore, if as a result of your injury your earning potential declined, you may be able to recover damages for loss of future earning capacity.
  • Pain and suffering. Another potential source of damages that you may be entitled to receive is pain and suffering. In the context of a personal injury claim, pain and suffering refers to physical pain as well as emotional distress. Factors such as the type of injury you suffered as well as recovery time affect the amount of compensation for pain and suffering you would receive. For example, you would be entitled to more pain and suffering compensation if your injury is permanent or if you are permanently disfigured compared to an injury that heals in a couple of weeks.
  • Replacement of damaged property. The person whose negligence caused the accident may also be responsible for damage to your vehicle or other property.
The problem of distracted driving is growing and should be taken just as seriously as drunk driving. In both cases the driver’s ability to drive skillfully is diminished and the results can be devastating. If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident caused by a driver who was texting or in some other way distracted, contact an experienced personal injury attorney at Donaghue & Labrum. We will carefully review the facts of your case and work closely with you to help you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.