Roadway safety continues to be a concern for motorists and local authorities alike. And, in the past 15 years, there has been a growing cause for concern. As mobile phones, smartphones and other devices have become more widely used, the number of accidents related to distracted driving have increased. So, what are local drivers and local authorities doing to combat this problem?
Read on to learn more about the types of distracted driving, the risks associated with it, and what is being done in Pennsylvania to protect everyone using the roadways.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is defined as any activity that can divert a motorist’s attention away from driving, texting, talking on the phone, eating, or navigating. It’s dangerous because a lack of attention makes it more possible to miss signs that the driver needs to adjust the speed or direction. If there are vehicles ahead that have stopped or slowed, pedestrians crossing the street, or any other number of conditions that can change suddenly, reaction time is critical. A distracted driver has less or no time to recognize the hazard on the road and avoid a collision.
Distraction Can Be Fatal
Distracted drivers put themselves, their passengers, and everyone else on the roadways at risk. One of every 10 fatal crashes in the U.S. is caused by distraction, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This adds up to over 3,000 deaths per year.
Crashes Involving Driver Error
|Contributing Factor||Crashes||Fatal Crashes|
|Proceeded Without Clearance||8,967||64|
These statistics provided by PennDOT (2017), show that distracted driving is the second largest cause of crashes in the state. Distraction also represents the fifth major cause of collision deaths related to driver error in Pennsylvania.
Part of this staggering statistic is due to the increased use of mobile devices. According to AAA, cell phone use quadruples the crash risk. Additionally, the National Safety Council warns that hands-free devices aren’t risk-free. A phone conversation can be distracting enough to take your thoughts and eyes away from the important task-at-hand. Whether you use your hands to dial or not, a moment of diversion can be enough to cause a crash.
Every day, this hazard is accountable for nearly nine deaths and 1,000 injuries across the country, explains the CDC. Unfortunately, teenagers make up the largest portion of fatal car accidents caused by distraction, says the National Occupant Protection Use Survey.
What Is Being Done Locally to Curb This Problem?
In 2012, Pennsylvania effectively banned texting while driving. Any drivers in the commonwealth caught sending or reading text messages while their vehicle is in motion were subject to a fine of $50 plus any related court costs. The Texting-While-Driving Ban also covers email and other forms of electronic messages which can be sent via an interactive wireless communication device, such as a smartphone or tablet.
But not everyone is satisfied with this law. This is because it’s difficult to enforce, fines are minimal, and it only limits some types of distraction. For example, the texting ban does not limit talking on a mobile phone or using a GPS navigator while driving. It also carries no points as a penalty for violations unless it can be prosecuted as a reckless driving or vehicular homicide charge. Though more than 100 citations are made each month, law enforcement agents in Pennsylvania say that violations are hard to prove making the law ineffective.
In fact, Pennsylvania lawmakers are working to improve these restrictions in order to effectively increase safety on the roads. Just last month, local representatives began discussing a new bill which would make it illegal to hold a cell phone while driving, even if the purpose is to use a mobile navigating program. This proposed legislation – House Bill 37 – is designed be easier to enforce for the police and highway patrol. Plus, the deterrent would be increased to $200 worth of fines and restrictions would be even more severe for teen drivers.
How to Prevent Distracted Driving
Don’t be a distracted driver; it’s an entirely preventable risk. With its popular “U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY.” campaign, the NHTSA urges drivers to:
- Pull over or park in a safe location whenever it’s necessary to read or send a text message.
- Ask one of your passengers to handle your phone calls and messages while you focus on the road.
- Help yourself resist the temptation to check your phone by leaving it in the truck while driving.
Learn more about Local Laws Aimed at Decreasing Hot Car Deaths.
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