October 27, 2016

According to The Wireless Association, over 170 billion text messages are in the United States. Unfortunately, it is impossible to know how many of those were sent from a cell phone being used while driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds that, nationally, several thousand people are killed each year due to distracted driving. Moreover, an estimated 421,000 people sustain personal injuries in motor vehicle accidents involving a distracted driver.

Texting is not the only distracted-driving behavior. Distracted driving is broadly defined by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation as any non-driving activity a person engages in while operating a motor vehicle which has the potential to distract the person from the primary task of driving and which increases the risk of crashing.

In fact, because distracted driving has become more and more prevalent with the use of cell phones and GPS systems, the DOT has declared that reducing distracted driving is now a top traffic safety priority, indicating that it is a dangerous behavior that has “no place on our roadways.” In hopes of curbing this dangerous behavior, the DOT has plans to construct and advance programs designed to educate and convince the public that distracted driving is extremely dangerous, and that taking certain steps to ensure you are giving your full attention to the roadway can save lives. Additionally, there will be more vigorous law enforcement efforts geared toward discouraging distracted driving.

The DOT observes that, statistically, distracted driving accounts for at least 10 percent of all Pennsylvania highway crashes. However, the DOT acknowledges that the true total is probably at least twice that number given that distracted drivers often do not want to admit being distracted (either by a cell phone call or text) when they have caused an accident. Similarly, the American Automobile Association finds that pre-crash distractions often leave behind no evidence at the scene of the crash, and that those distracted drivers understandably may be “reluctant to admit they were distracted.” In some instances, a driver may not realize that the accident was caused by inattentiveness. Unlike alcohol intoxication, which can be proven with a Breathalyzer, field or blood test, there is often no way that a law enforcement officer will actually know whether a driver was distracted at the time of the crash.

Causes of distraction

It is estimated that at any given moment during daylight hours, at least 660,000 drivers are using electronic devices. Texting is the behavior most often associated with distracted-driving accidents. In an attempt to reduce texting and driving accidents, Pennsylvania adopted a statewide anti-texting law aimed at reducing highway injuries and deaths.

Texting, however, is not the only distracted-driving behavior which can result in highway injuries or fatalities. The DOT finds the following behaviors also result in driver inattentiveness:

  • Eating, drinking or smoking since these behaviors often require drivers to take their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road.
  • Adjusting the radio or CD player.
  • Talking and interacting with other passengers.
  • Searching for an object in the vehicle while driving.
  • Reading or writing.
  • Personal grooming such as combing hair or applying make-up.
  • Rubbernecking while passing an accident scene.
  • Looking at events occurring off the road.
  • Lack of sleep; drowsiness.

Regardless of the type of distraction, the DOT concludes that distracted driving is dangerous since it reduces a distracted driver’s reaction time and makes it difficult to control vehicles and stay within lanes.

Bringing suit for injuries

Given that society is now an ingrained multi-tasking culture, distracted-driving habits will be difficult to break. Distracted drivers present significant risks of injury to their passengers as well as other motorists on our roads and highways. If you or a loved one has sustained injury in a motor vehicle accident, and you believe it was due to the negligence of a distracted driver, you should call our office immediately and ask to speak with one of our personal injury attorneys. We are available to take your call 24 hours a day. Call us at 888.312.4351 to set up a free in-home consultation. We have been handling automobile accident cases for your neighbors for nearly 30 years, and we are ready to help you