Everyone who gets behind the wheel of a car knows that driving carries inherent risk, and it is a risk that most of us accept. However, most people do not feel that they’ve signed up for the additional risks created by drivers who choose to use their smartphones while driving. Texting and driving is becoming a serious distraction for drivers, killing hundreds of Americans each year.
April is the National Safety Council’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Education is key to eliminating the threat caused by distracted driving. Consider this: In the 5 seconds that it takes to read or send a text message, a car driving at 55 miles per hour will cover the length of an entire football field! In that 5 seconds, there is tremendous potential to cause injury to other drivers, and of course, to oneself. Driving while texting can impair your reaction time as much or more than driving at a blood alcohol level of 0.08 percent, the legal limit. Some compare it to operating a car while blindfolded.
Distracted Driving in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania’s texting-while-driving ban prohibits drivers from sending, reading, or writing any text-based communication while their vehicle is in motion. The penalty for sending an email, text, or instant message, or for browsing the internet while driving is $50 plus court and other related fees.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that for each year between 2012 and 2016, distracted driving involving a cellphone was responsible for between 380 and 453 deaths nationally. PennDOT reports that in 2016, there were more than 16,000 car accidents in Pennsylvania that were due at least in part to distracted driving; of those, 61 were fatal. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to deadly crashes involving texting while driving.
Cracking Down on Texting and Driving: Daniel’s Law
In late 2016, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill into law that drastically increased the penalties to a negligent driver who causes serious bodily harm or death to another driver or pedestrian due to texting. The law was named after Daniel Gallatin, a motorcycle driver who was struck and killed by a texting driver.
After the driver received little more than a slap on the wrist, Mr. Gallatin’s family approached their state representative, who authored the bill. As of November 2016, the state of Pennsylvania can add 5 years of additional jail time to any sentence when the negligent party was texting.
The Importance of Responsible Driving
The more we remind ourselves and others of the hazards of distracted driving, the more likely we are to take the simple precautions necessary to ensure that we and those we are sharing the road with arrive safely to our destinations.
Texting and driving is particularly dangerous as it involves all three types of driving distractions:
- Visual – Taking your eyes away from the road;
- Manual – Taking your hands away from the steering wheel; and
- Cognitive – Taking your mind off of driving
The best way to ensure that you, your passengers, or those in other vehicles do not become a statistic is to simply turn off your phone and place it in your pocket, handbag, or other location where it is out of reach until you turn off the ignition. If you want to keep your phone available in case of an emergency, there are apps that you can install on your smartphone that will block texts, emails, and calls other than those to 911 while the vehicle is in motion. There are other apps designed especially for teenage drivers that prevent them from accessing texts and calls while driving and alert parents immediately if the teenager disables the app. These apps may be worth looking into for you and your family.
Setting an example for other drivers is extremely important. You can’t expect your teenager not to talk on the phone or text while driving if you do it yourself! Ask your family and friends to take the safe driving pledge, speak up if you are a passenger in a car where the driver is texting, and post your thoughts about distracted driving on social media. If it makes a loved one think before picking up the phone behind the wheel, it could save a life.
Finally, remember that texting is not the only hazardous behavior that can cause a distraction while driving. Eating, talking on the phone, smoking, personal grooming, or adjusting the music or a GPS device all can create a dangerous situation within a matter of seconds. Before you set out on the road, arrange your playlist, enter your destination into your GPS, and make sure that you don’t have anything to do for the duration of your trip other than to focus on driving. When you think about it, it’s really not worth the risk to do anything else.
Personal Injury Lawyers for Victims of Distracted Drivers
The attorneys of Donaghue & Labrum have been representing car accident victims for three decades, and we understand the heartache that is caused when another driver makes a choice that alters the course of your life. When a negligent driver causes you or a loved one harm because of texting and driving or other distracted driving behaviors, you deserve justice. Texting behind the wheel is a choice, and making that choice has consequences.
If you’ve been injured in a car accident that involved texting and driving, call Donaghue & Labrum today for a free legal consultation, or visit us at one of our convenient Media or West Chester locations. We will explain your rights and answer all of your questions. Nothing can undo the suffering that your family has endured, but Donaghue & Labrum will fight for the maximum compensation you are entitled to.