Distracted driving has become one of America’s leading causes of
car accidents, injuries, and deaths. While this can include any form of risky multi-tasking
– from personal grooming and eating or drinking to conversing with
passengers or reading maps – it most notably includes text messaging
and the use of handheld smart phones. In fact, the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration has cited distracted driving as a national epidemic
that killed nearly 4,000 victims in 2016 alone, and which is a leading
factor behind recent surges in fatal traffic accidents nationwide.
With such alarming data on distracted driving collected in recent years,
many states across the country have taken steps to regulate the use of
cell phones behind the wheel. This includes Pennsylvania, which enforces
the following laws:
- State law prohibits all drivers from texting while driving.
- Motorists are prohibited from wearing headphones and earbuds while driving.
- Talking on a handheld cell phone is illegal only for commercial drivers.
While there is a texting ban in place in Pennsylvania, it has not been
very effective, nor has it been successfully enforced, according to newly
released data from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts. Additionally,
unlike other states, Pennsylvania does not have a law regulating handheld
cell phone use for non-commercial drivers, meaning cell phone use that
isn’t considered texting, such as using apps, e-mail, or placing calls.
Here are some important numbers from the report:
- In 2017, there was an average total of two citations issues for texting
and driving per municipality statewide. What’s more, that low total
was an increase compared to previous years.
- Between 2013 and 2017, less than 9,000 texting citations were issued under
the state’s 2012 texting and driving law. That equates to roughly
8 citations per day in a state where there are more than 9 million licensed
- While reports indicate that four out of five Americans admit to having
used a cell phone while driving in the previous year, just 0.1% of Pennsylvania
motorists have ever received a texting citation.
While many criticize police for failing to enforce a law designed to protect
the public, law enforcement officials say a large part of the problem
stems from a texting law that is too weak to make any substantial impact
on driver behavior. When compared to similar legislation against distracted
driving in other states, Pennsylvania’s laws fall short because
they don’t universally prohibit handheld use of cell-phones. Such
a law would subject motorists to citations and penalties for simply using
their phone for any reason behind the wheel, and reduce their ability
to dispute citations when they do receive a ticket.
Because current laws make it difficult for citations to stick, and for
law enforcement to prove a driver was in fact texting while driving, many
are calling for tougher legislation. Those efforts aren’t just limited
to Pennsylvania either. They’ve been recommended across the board
for all states by prominent organizations like the National Safety Council,
which calls distracted driving one of the single most pressing dangers
on American Roads.
Distracted Driving & Victims’ Rights
While there is still a great deal of work to be done before texting laws
in Pennsylvania and other states are strengthened, the fact remains that
there is ample evidence about the dangers of distracted driving. Statistics
from the NHTSA have consistently shown this over the years:
- In 2016, 9% of all fatal crashes involved driver distraction, a year when
more than 3,400 victims were killed and nearly 400,000 injured in distracted
- Texting while driving makes a motorists as much as 23 times more likely to crash.
- Taking your eyes off the road to read or compose a text while driving 55
mph is equivalent to driving the length of a 100-yard football field –
- Texting and cell phone use are considered the most dangerous form of distracted
driving, as they command a motorist’s attention in multiple ways
(visual, manual, and cognitive).
With data and statistics as overwhelming as these, it is clear that even
though drivers may escape citations for
texting while driving, they are still engaging in a negligent acts that explicitly violates
their legal obligation to safely operate a motor vehicle. As such, they
can be held liable by victims who they harm in preventable car accidents
At Shrager & Sachs, our Philadelphia car accident lawyers have extensive
experience fighting for clients who were injured in car accidents involving
distracted drivers – accidents that could and should have been prevented.
Because personal injury cases focus on negligence, our attorneys emphasize
the negligence of texting behind the wheel, and the rights of victims
who deserve full and fair compensation for damages they did not bring
If you have questions about your rights and the
personal injury claim process, or would like to learn more about how we can fight for
the financial recovery you deserve,
contact us for a free consultation.