Distracted Driving Awareness Month Should Matter to All of Us
Modern devices such as cell phones, dashboard touchscreens, voice commands and other technologies we use in cars are convenient, but they compete for our attention while driving, and the distractions they create pose a threat to the safety of all motorists.
Unfortunately, distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways. Every day, at least nine Americans die and 100 are injured in distracted driving crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 10% (3,050) of U.S. fatal crashes in 2012 were reported as distraction-affected. In 12% of these crashes, the distraction was talking on, listening to, or manipulating a cell phone.
In an effort to recognize the dangers of and eliminate preventable deaths from distracted driving, April has been designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month by the National Safety Council (NSC). The NSC feels that addressing what causes crashes, as well as the roles that vehicles, drivers, road systems and technology play will lead to the goal of zero car crash fatalities.
If you or a loved one has been injured or someone has died in a distracted driving crash, you may be entitled to compensation for physical, emotional and financial damages. However, your case must be handled correctly and competently, or you may never collect the compensation you are entitled to.
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. Texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds, which is equivalent to traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph – and doing it essentially blindfolded. (Source: Distraction.gov)
The most common activities that pull a person’s attention away from driving include:
- Adjusting temperature control knobs
- Changing music or radio stations
- Checking phone messages or email
- Eating or drinking
- Interacting with passengers
- Personal grooming, such as applying makeup or shaving
- Reaching for an object
- Using a cell phone
- Using a navigation system (GPS)
- Watching videos
Distracted Driving Laws in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania law prohibits all drivers from texting while driving. This is a primary law, which means that a police officer has the right to pull someone over and give them a ticket for texting while driving without having to witness another moving violation. However, the law doesn’t prohibit drivers from talking on their cell phones while their vehicle is in motion. That is why some representatives have been calling for stricter laws, proposing bans on hand-held cell phones.
Drivers Must be Responsible
Everyone 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.
If you or a loved one was involved in a vehicle crash that was caused by someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or wrongdoing, you may be entitled to seek damages in a lawsuit that will hold the responsible party accountable. It is important to contact an attorney as soon as possible as evidence can disappear quickly and insurance companies will attempt to get you to accept the lowest settlement possible. In addition, Pennsylvania has a statute of limitations of two years after the accident for filing a personal injury or property damage lawsuit.
What Does Compensation Cover?
In Pennsylvania, compensated costs and losses fall into two categories: economic damages and non-economic damages.
- Economic damages – expenses which can be objectively calculated, such as medical, therapy, and rehabilitation costs, costs of equipment such as wheelchairs, lost income, property damage, and funeral and burial costs if a death is involved.
- Non-economic damages –may include pain and suffering, the loss of enjoyment of life, and the loss of a marital relationship (consortium).