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Texting Drivers Remain a Problem in Pennsylvania, But Few Receive Tickets

Distracted driving has become one of America’s leading causes of preventable 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 motorists.
  • 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 driving accidents.
  • 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 – blindfolded.
  • 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, & Blanco, 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 upon themselves.

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.

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