On average, more than 3,000 people die and 1,000 are injured each year in distracted driving car accidents in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Anything that takes a driver’s focus off the road is a distraction.
Distracted driving behaviors are broken down into three main categories:
It is important to note that a distraction can be in more than one category, however, all distractions are dangerous.
To prevent a distracted driving accident, you should be aware of common distractions. The following are primary causes of distracted driving accidents.
Drivers have been caught doing the following with their cellphones:
Doing any one of these activities is enough to cause a serious accident. Taking your eyes away from the road for even a few seconds can cause a car accident.
Noise and horseplay can distract a driver from focusing on the road. Many times, teenage drivers will load their cars with friends who may listen to loud music, yell, and laugh loudly, or engage in horseplay.
An inexperienced teenage driver coupled with rowdy passengers is a dangerous combination. Sometimes, children and siblings in the car will fight or become unruly. They can be extremely distracting as well.
Drivers will sometimes turn up the volume on a favorite song, or children in the car playing with games or watching videos can cause excessive volume. Loud distractions inside the vehicle will affect the driver’s ability to remain focused on the road. In addition, emergency vehicle sirens are challenging to hear when there is noise inside the car.
A GPS device is a great, helpful system and a boon to travelers. Unfortunately, they can also be distracting if not used correctly. Looking down frequently at directions or programming the system while driving are major distractions.
Program the device before you leave or pull over to a spot to do so safely. Also, position the GPS where it is easy to see in front of you and use the voice settings.
Today’s cars have many buttons, toggles, switches, and programmable settings. Adjusting controls while driving is a definite distraction. It only takes a second for a driver to lose control of the vehicle while adjusting the air conditioning, heat, seat warmer, or infotainment systems. It is best to wait until you are safely parked to make your adjustments, or have a passenger help you adjust controls.
Many new cars have a screen that provides necessary vehicle information, a rear-view camera, and entertainment. While these technological advances can be great, they can also be distracting. Interacting with the screens while driving is dangerous. Wait until you are stopped to adjust.
Nearly every driver has dropped something in their vehicle. Many motorists have tried to get objects while also trying to drive. Reaching down, moving across the passenger seat or into the glove compartment, or reaching to the back seat simply cannot be done safely while driving. Pull over safely if you need the object immediately.
Pulling food from a bag or grabbing a drink cannot be done safely while driving. Also, think about the spills, drips, and other mishaps with fast food. It is best to pull into a parking spot once you leave the drive-thru lane or wait until you are home to eat.
It is easy, especially on long trips, to become lost in thought. Even a short drive home from work can distract you. Most people are unaware that they are daydreaming until they need to stop or react quickly to an emergency.
Some drivers think it is okay to apply makeup, clip their nails, put in contact lenses, brush their hair, or even shave while driving. All these actions should not be done in the car.
Most dogs love a car ride, and sometimes pets need to travel too. However, loose pets are huge distractions. A loose pet can get caught in the driver’s legs or feet or try to sit behind the wheel. They may beg for pets or bark at everything in sight. The best way to transport your pet is in a travel carrier or with safeguards that keep the pet secure in one place.
Unfortunately, road rage still exists. A driver may be angry about another motorist’s perceived slight or mistake. They become distracted by their anger and begin to drive recklessly and aggressively to seek revenge.
It may be tempting to gawk at a car accident or something else on the road. The problem is that your eyes are off the road when this happens, and an accident can happen. Accidents can occur when drivers gawk at roadside emergencies or collisions.
Every state has laws against using cellphones while driving, some stricter than others. In Pennsylvania, Title 75 of the vehicle code prohibits anyone in the state from using an interactive wireless communication device to send, read, or text while driving. An interactive wireless communication device includes a wireless phone, personal digital assistant, smartphone, portable or mobile computer, and other similar devices. Drivers in Pennsylvania are also prohibited from wearing headphones and earphones.
The penalty for using an interactive wireless communication device while driving is a fine plus court costs and other applicable fees. offense will be noted on a commercial driver’s record.
Pennsylvania also has Daniel’s Law, which increases the penalties if a driver causes injuries or death to another person while texting behind the wheel. The law was named for Daniel Gallatin, a volunteer firefighter and military veteran killed in a fatal motorcycle accident caused by a distracted driver. Under Daniel’s Law, a driver can face a two-year jail sentence for causing serious bodily injury while texting, or a five-year jail sentence for causing a fatality while texting.
Because distracted driving laws vary by state, your safest option is to refrain from using cellphones and other devices in every state you drive. Claiming ignorance of the law will not get you out of a citation.
In most states, a driver who sues another driver (plaintiff) for causing an accident must prove that the driver being sued (defendant) was negligent. In Pennsylvania, negligence is defined as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to yourself or others. If the plaintiff can prove that the defendant was using an electronic communication device or was otherwise distracted when the accident occurred, they can typically establish negligence.
Also, in Pennsylvania and many other states, if a defendant was cited for violating a distracted driving statute, they will be presumed negligent. They will then have the burden of proving they did not cause the accident. In legal terms, this is referred to as “negligence per se.”
No matter how minor or severe the accident, there are steps you should take after a distracted driving collision:
No one’s life should be turned upside down by a distracted driver. Our legal team takes distracted driving accidents seriously. We will work to prove the other driver was negligent. Our clients can expect:
If you have been injured in a distracted driving car accident, you deserve justice. One of our Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP can review your case and present your legal options. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or complete our online form to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg, from our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania.