19 Apr. 2017

Increase in Highway Deaths Prompts Call for Cell Phone Ban

Posted By Haggerty, Goldberg, Schleifer & Kupersmith, P.C.

It is well known that distracted driving has become one of the most prominent dangers on our public roads and highways. In fact, driver distraction has become such a pervasive problem that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has gone as far as calling it a national epidemic – and for good reason. NHTSA reports that hundreds of thousands of preventable injuries and deaths directly result from drivers who were distracted at the time of an auto accident. That’s something to consider this month, as April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Although the problem has been identified and studied and addressed by legislators in many states, distracted driving still claims the lives of numerous victims each year. What’s more, highway deaths in the U.S. are continuing to rise at an alarming rate, largely as a result of distracted driving. In 2016 alone, the U.S. saw a 6% spike in highway deaths from the previous year (42,000 deaths), and a 14% surge in fatalities since 2014 – the largest two-year increase since 1964.

The alarming data has prompted many to speak out about our general complacency in allowing distracted driving to continue killing innocent victims. According to advocates, large and consistent spikes and over 40,000 annual deaths cannot become the new normal, and aggressive measures – similar to those taken to address drunk driving – need to be taken when it comes to preventing driver distraction.

To address the problem, experts and advocates are pushing for tougher bans on texting and cell phone use behind the wheel. Currently, states have the ability to regulate cell phone use behind the wheel, and most do. However, not all states have similar laws, with some permitting cell phone use by non-novice and non-commercial drivers or allowing motorists to use hands-free devices. The problem, however, is that hands-free does not mean risk free. Additionally, many of these distracted driving laws are secondary laws, meaning that police cannot ticket drivers for a distracted driving offense unless the driver also commits some other traffic infraction.

Here’s the current law on distracted driving in Pennsylvania:

  • Texting ban – Pennsylvania prohibits text messaging for all drivers while a vehicle is in motion. The law also prohibits instant messaging, emails, and browsing the internet. As a primary offense, motorists can be fined $50 for a first offense, plus additional fees, that can increase with subsequent offenses.

Unfortunately, there are no current statewide laws prohibiting the use of cell phones to place calls, either hand held or hands-free. The texting ban has also received criticism for being difficult to enforce, as motorists can legally enter numbers into a phone. Ultimately, current state laws fall short in protecting the public against the substantial risks posed by distracted driver.

Cell phone use, including text messaging, is considered the most dangerous form of distracted driving for the sole reason that it commands a driver’s cognitive, visual, and manual attention all at once – a dangerous combination for someone behind the wheel of a large vehicle traveling at high speeds. By passing tougher laws to prohibit all cell phone use behind the wheel and enforcing those laws, it may be possible to make a dent in the rising number of roadway deaths that occur throughout the country each year. Still, the largest hurdle may be changing our society’s constant attachment to cell phones and educating the public about the importance of waiting to use a phone until one is safely off the road.

Although there is much work to be done when it comes to legislation and public awareness, victims who are harmed in car accidents caused by distracted drivers still have the right to hold them accountable for their negligence and liable for the damages incurred as a result of their injuries. These damages can include medical expenses, wage losses from missing work, mental anguish, and physical pain and suffering, among others. Distracted driving may or may not always be explicitly illegal, but it is certainly negligent and a reason for increased crash risks.

At Haggerty, Goldberg, Schleifer & Kupersmith, P.C., our Philadelphia car accident lawyers are readily available to fight on behalf of victims who have been harmed by the negligence of others. Over the years, our attorneys have leveraged decades of combined experience to recover millions of dollars in compensation for injured victims throughout Eastern Pennsylvania. In every case we handle, we place a priority on personal attention and fighting for the maximum compensation possible.

If you wish to discuss a potential case with a member of our legal team, contact us for a FREE consultation.

Categories: Car Accidents
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