Driving while distracted can be life-threatening, especially if the distraction involves a cell phone. According to new data collected by Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT) from hundreds of thousands of drivers using its app, more than half of all vehicle crashes included some form of distraction from a mobile phone. In nearly a quarter of the crashes, the driver was using a phone within a minute before the crash occurred, and perhaps even at the moment of the crash. This is not surprising, since composing a typical text message is like closing one’s eyes for nearly five seconds, during which time a vehicle going 55 mph covers more than the length of a football field.
The data supports the view that smartphones have made the nation’s highways more dangerous. And it also suggests that the laws that have been enacted so far against using phones while driving have not solved the problem.
How often have you been sitting in your own car and seen somebody flying around a corner, or driving down the road, while talking on their phone or playing with their phone? It is a fact of life, that while laws exist, too many people are addicted to their phones or somehow think they can use them while driving their cars. Insane!
If you have lost a loved one or have been seriously injured because of a distracted driver, you deserve to be compensated for the physical, emotional, and financial damages you suffered. The experienced and compassionate automobile/truck personal injury lawyer Cliff Rieders at Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann has a long history of results and can help. We offer a free consultation to evaluate the circumstances of your accident and determine the best way to handle your individual case.
Pennsylvania Distracted Driving Laws
The National Safety Council states that texting while driving causes 1.6 million crashes per year. Fortunately, since March, 2012, Pennsylvania has a law that prohibits all drivers from texting while driving. It states that drivers are banned from using an Interactive Wireless Communication Device to send, read or write text-based messages while their vehicle is in motion. This is a primary law, which means that a police officer has the right to pull drivers over and give them a ticket for texting while driving, without having to witness another moving violation. The law carries a $50 fine and nearly $90 in court costs.
Automobile Association of America (AAA) statistics show that during the first year of the texting-while-driving ban, some 1,302 citations were issued in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, while the texting ban is a step in the right direction, it is inadequate to protect people from drivers, especially teens, distracted by handheld devices since Pennsylvania law doesn’t prohibit drivers from talking on their cell phones while their vehicle is in motion. This is a problem that has caused some of our representatives to call for stricter laws, proposing bans on hand-held cell phones as well as texting.
According to a 2013 survey by The Governor’s Highway Safety Association, 2013, police officers are challenged by bans that apply only to teenage drivers; secondary enforcement laws that require police to have some other reason to stop a vehicle before citing the driver for cellphone law violations; and the difficulty of discerning whether a motorist is engaged in illegal texting compared with a behavior that is permitted, such as dialing a phone. Research from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee found texting bans work best when they are accompanied by an overall ban on handheld phone use, making enforcement easier.
Since mobile phones have built-in GPS, they can actually “know” when they are being moved. They may not know who is driving the car, of course. It is possible to utilize an interlock device so that the person sitting in the driver’s seat would not be able to use the cell phone; the cell phone would shut down. This may be an absolute necessity as the carnage of driving while using cell phones increases.
Can smartphones modify driving behavior?
CMT believes that smartphones could modify driving behavior. The company’s apps accumulate driver data in six categories, including phone use while driving, speeding, braking, acceleration, cornering and time of driving. CMT claims that sharing this information with users makes them better drivers because they can achieve behavioral change through immediate and ongoing feedback.
By gathering the data and giving drivers feedback, the company says the app has reduced phone distraction by 35 percent after a month and by 40 percent after two months.
The risk of CMT is that it will not be used responsibly, or the data will not be gathered at the right time and place. It should never be used while driving, obviously. Unfortunately, not only mobile phones, but electronic equipment in cars encourages drivers to use them while they are driving. Many cars have not only cell phone access, but also internet, maps, and a variety of other distractions encouraging negligence and carelessness on the road.
Drivers Must Be Responsible
Anyone who gets behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is required to drive responsibly and practice safe driving habits. When drivers devote their attention to anything other than the road, they must be held responsible for any injuries they cause.
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity that has the potential to distract the driver from the primary task of driving and increases the risk of crashing. Distractions can be visual (taking eyes off the road), manual (taking hands off the wheel), or cognitive (taking mind off what you’re doing). Since texting involves all three, it is particularly dangerous. (Source: Distraction.gov)
Being “responsible” is not enough. Manufacturers of automobiles, devices, apps and electronics must discourage and actually prevent their use by the person in the driver’s seat. All this is technologically feasible today. We are talking now about driverless cars and cars that can fly. Before such contrivances make their way out of factory doors, we should consider and pass laws that disable electronic equipment from being used at all by someone in the driver’s seat. Another danger is that, as cars become more autonomous, people will rely upon the electronic wizardry to protect them from a collision. Many times this makes the driver even more distracted, careless and negligent. Likewise, the equipment itself may fail. Airbags fail, and certainly electronic equipment designed to run the car, make it safer, or to avoid crashes may actually cause collisions to occur.
Injured in an accident? Get a free consultation.
If you suspect your accident and subsequent injuries were caused by a driver who was talking on their cell phone or texting, or was otherwise distracted, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible. Prompt legal consultation can ensure the collection of relevant facts and the preservation of evidence.
The experienced personal injury attorney Clifford A. Rieders of Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann has spent decades honing his skills and successfully representing Pennsylvania families who have suffered an injury or loss due to someone else’s negligence. We offer personal attention and loyalty to every client, and aggressively fight for their right to compensation. Whether in settlement negotiations or pursuing a favorable trial verdict, we are thoroughly prepared and committed to achieving a just outcome.
If you or your loved one has been injured in an accident, contact Cliff Rieders at Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann by calling 1-(570) 323-8711 for a free consultation, or use our online contact form.
Based in Williamsport, we serve clients throughout the state of Pennsylvania, offering a free consultation on all injury matters. More than that, we offer you experience, knowledge, compassion, and a long history of results.
Cliff Rieders’ book on the Financial Responsibility Law, one of the leading texts on the subject, can be easily accessed from Amazon. While no book can be definitive in giving all the law and rules with respect to driving, Financial Responsibility Law Issues by Cliff Rieders is a handbook in connection with Pennsylvania’s complex Financial Responsibility Law. We are always amazed how many people do not have proper insurance or do not understand how underinsurance works. There are forms people sign when they obtain insurance. Some people think that they are bound to choices of less insurance regardless of what they sign or do not sign. There are occasions when people can obtain more coverage because the forms are not properly executed, saved, or utilized by the company. This is complex material, and you should obtain a consultation with a lawyer such as Cliff Rieders at Rieders, Travis, Humphrey, Waters & Dohrmann.
Cliff Rieders is a Past President of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. Rieders has won numerous awards and recognition from the Pennsylvania Association for Justice. Rieders is on committees and organizations that write the law in many fields of practice. Cliff Rieders was involved in the writing of the Mcare Act, which governs medical liability actions in Pennsylvania. Cliff Rieders wrote the book on medical malpractice that lawyers use in the state. Cliff teaches the subject of medical malpractice at seminars attended by the leading lawyers in the state. Cliff Rieders is recognized as an outstanding authority in the medical malpractice field. Cliff has even testified before the legislature on medical malpractice laws. Cliff Rieders is the lawyer that other lawyers call for counsel and advice in the medical malpractice and pharmaceutical/vitamin supplement fields. Cliff Rieders is admitted in state and federal courts, including the Supreme Court of the United States.