Hopefully, you agree that you should never drink a beer while driving your car.
So why would you send a text?
According to a study by Car and Driver magazine, sober drivers who were texting or reading an email took significantly longer to react to road hazard than drivers who were legally intoxicated.
|Driver reaction time (based on condition/behavior)|
|Intoxicated||Add 4 feet|
|Reading an email||Add 36 feet|
|Sending a text||Add 70 feet|
Given this data, it’s perhaps unsurprising that 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured every day in the United States in crashes involving distracted drivers.
Let’s take a closer look at distracted driving laws in Pennsylvania, including how they might impact your personal injury claim.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, distracted driving was a factor in 14,292 crashes in 2018. Of those crashes, 63 were fatal.
Source: “Crash Facts & Statistics,” Pennsylvania Department of Transportation
Unfortunately, research shows that drivers in Pennsylvania and nationwide still don’t take distracted driving seriously enough.
In an effort to make clear just how serious distracted driving is, Enjuris has compiled some alarming facts:
Though cell phone use and text and driving tend to be most commonly associated with the term “distracted driving,” technically a distraction can be any activity that diverts your attention from driving. Traffic safety experts classify distractions into 3 main types:
One reason texting is so dangerous is that it involves all 3 types of distractions.
Other common distractions include:
There are lots of potential distractions for drivers, but only some of them are illegal.
Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code prohibits any driver in Pennsylvania from using “an interactive wireless communication device to send, read, or write a text-based communication while the car is in motion.”
An “interactive wireless communication device” includes a wireless phone, personal digital assistant, smartphone, portable or mobile computer, and any similar device that can be used for texting, instant messaging, emailing, or browsing the internet.
In addition, drivers in Pennsylvania are prohibited from wearing headphones and earphones.
The violation carries no points as a penalty and won’t be recorded on your driving record if you’re a non-commercial driver. It will be recorded on commercial drivers’ records as a non-sanction violation.
What’s more, Daniel’s Law enhances the penalties if a driver causes injuries or death to another person while texting behind the wheel. In these cases, the driver can face:
In Pennsylvania, the fine for using a cell phone or other electronic communication device while driving is relatively small. The real cost of using such a device shows up when the person using the device causes a car accident.
Typically, when one driver sues another driver for damages caused by a car accident, the driver bringing the lawsuit (the “plaintiff”) must prove that the driver being sued (the “defendant”) was negligent.
In Pennsylvania, “negligence” is defined as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to yourself or someone else. If the plaintiff can prove that the defendant was using an electronic communication device (or was otherwise distracted) when the accident occurred, the plaintiff can generally establish negligence.
What’s more, if the defendant received a citation for violating the distracted driving statute, the defendant will be presumed negligent and the defendant will have the burden of proving that they didn’t cause the accident. This is referred to as “negligence per se.”
Unfortunately, if the defendant didn’t receive a citation, proving distracted driving can be quite challenging.
Reviewing phone records can help, but they aren’t helpful if the distraction was caused by something else like reaching between the seats to find a piece of candy.
This is where a Pennsylvania car accident attorney can help. An experienced attorney can help gather evidence to support your claim that the defendant was distracted, including deposition testimony from the driver and any witnesses.