While it may have become commonplace in our fast-paced society, distracted driving is a public health issue. Checking your phone or taking a call while driving isn’t just annoying — it can cause an accident, and even kill or seriously injure another person.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), more than 40,000 people were killed on American roads and highways in 2017. This represents an increase of 6% from 2015. Distracted driving is a major contributor to these accidents, particularly in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Cracks Down on Distracted Driving
Pennsylvania law prohibits a specific type of distracted driving: texting while driving. The law, which went into effect in 2012, prohibits drivers from using an “interactive wireless communication device” to send, read or write a text-based communication. Although this law has been in effect for a number of years, it has not always been strictly enforced — until recently.
The number of tickets for distracted driving has increased sharply in the past two years. According to the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, between 2014 and 2016, the number of citations for distracted driving increased 52 percent.
In 2016 alone, more than 12,000 distracted driving tickets were issued in the Commonwealth.
The majority (70%) of these tickets were issued to men for either texting or wearing headphones while driving. Most drivers who were ticketed for distracted driving were either in their 20’s (36%) or 30’s (27%). Montgomery and Chester Counties were among the Pennsylvania counties with the most distracted drivers.
Lawmakers have proposed a new bill that would prohibit anyone 18 and older from talking on the phone unless they used a hands-free accessory. Drivers under 18 would not be permitted to talk on a cell phone at all. A violation of this proposed law would result in three points on a Pennsylvania driver’s license and a $50 fine for the first offense, and a $100 fine for each subsequent offense. There are a number of exceptions built into the bill, such as for making calls to the police and first responders.
While a ticket for distracted driving under the current law carries relatively low penalties of $50 plus court costs, the potential for more serious consequences is much higher. In 2015 alone, nearly 15,000 crashes were reported in Pennsylvania involving a distracted driver. 61 of these crashes resulted in death.
How You Can Reduce Distracted Driving
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2015 fatalities attributable to distracted driving increased faster than those caused by drunk driving, speeding, or failure to wear seatbelts. Distracted driving is a growing problem and one that we will have to work to reduce, particularly as we grow more reliant on cell phones and other technology.
One of the easiest ways to reduce distracted driving is to simply stop using your phone in the car. There are a number of apps available for download that block smartphone use while in the car. Apple also has a “do not disturb” feature that iPhone users can enable that blocks phone use when it detects that it is in the car.
You can also simply turn your phone off while driving. The key is to pick an app or another method of blocking cell phone use and to stick to it. Because it is all too easy to get sucked into talking on the phone, texting, or checking social media while driving, we have to commit to not doing any of these things if we truly want to make a change.
Of course, there are other forms of distracted driving. From digging in your purse or bag for a snack to changing the radio, we all occasionally take our eyes off the road to do something. Yet there are ways to plan ahead so that we can avoid this. Organize your car so that the things that you need are readily accessible, and ask your passengers to do some of the work for you. If you do need to get something out of a bag and don’t have anyone to help, pull over or wait until your car is stopped to do it. This may be inconvenient, but it is better than causing an accident.
This April, we can all do something to reduce the number of distracted driving accidents in Philadelphia and around the country. Start by taking this pledge, and then brainstorm more ways that you can make yourself and others around you safer on the roads.
Rainy Weather Requires Even More Caution
In the greater Philadelphia area, warmer April weather means that snowy conditions should be over — but that doesn’t mean that drivers are in the clear. In fact, rainy weather can be just as dangerous for Philadelphia drivers. Recently, 3 people were injured in a crash on I-95 near the Philadelphia airport. Rain may have been a factor in the collision, in which one vehicle flipped over.
While drivers should always remain alert and put away their devices, paying full attention is even more important during a rainstorm. Make sure to turn on your headlights to increase visibility, and use your windshield wipers to make sure that you can see. Keep your speed in check, remembering that speed limits are designed for ideal conditions — not for rain and reduced visibility. Turning off cruise control can help you avoid hydroplaning, and to regain control if you do hydroplane.
These tips may not prevent an accident in rainy weather, but they can help improve your chances of getting home safely in the rain. Along with reducing distractions as you drive, following these suggestions this April can help keep you, your loved ones, and others on the road safe.
Call a Philadelphia Auto Accident Attorney Today
The highly skilled Philadelphia auto accident attorneys of Solnick & Associates have more than three decades of combined experience representing clients to help them recover for their losses. We work with our clients to help them achieve the best possible outcome. To schedule a free initial consultation, contact us today.