Put Down the Phone and Drive: Adhere to PA’s Distracted Driving Laws

We all have likely done it once in our life — been distracted while driving. Today we think of distracted driving and visualize a smartphone or car infotainment system. Yet long before this tech, we ate fast food in our cars, reached toward the back seat to grab a wallet or changed the radio station. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted driving causes approximately 1,000 injures and nine fatalities every day.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and we at KBG would like you to take the opportunity to be more aware of the road in front of you.

What kind of distracted driver are you?

Most people hear distracted driving and think of texting and driving. While this is one form of distracted driving, there are numerous types of distracted driving. Distracted driving is defined as engaging in other activities that distracts the driver’s attention away from the road.

What you may think is a simple task in the car can actually be dangerous for yourself and others on the road. Distracted driving is described as three categories — visual, manual and cognitive.

Let’s see what type of driver you are. Take note of which you tend to do while driving.

A. You notice a billboard on the side of the road. Maybe it has an upcoming event you are interested in and you just want to catch the date and time on the billboard.

B. Running late for work? No worries, you bring your breakfast in the car with your coffee. To make it to work on time, you eat your breakfast while driving and drink some coffee to boost your energy for the day.

C. Your radio show is talking about a riveting topic — who will win the next NBA game. When you stop at a red light, you don’t remember the last few turns you made.

D. When starting your travels, no matter how far, you set your favorite radio station, enter directions into your GPS and silence your phone. You keep your mind on the task at hand — driving.

Answered A? You experience visual distractions.

Visual distractions are the most common form of distracted driving. This includes taking your eyes off the road in front of you, even if it is for a second. This could range from looking for items in your car to looking at the scenery on the side of the road, or looking at your GPS.

Answered B? You are manually distracted.

A manual distraction includes taking your hands off the steering wheel for any reason and typically is combined with visual distractions. Think of when a song you don’t like comes on the radio and you change the station; your eyes not only leave the road, your hand may come off the steering wheel. Even reaching for your coffee or a snack is considered a distraction.

Answered C? You experience cognitive distractions.

Have you ever driven somewhere and once you arrived, you don’t remember the last few minutes of the trip? During this time it can be an internal distraction, like an argument you had with a spouse or co-worker or wondering why your phone is ringing, that is keeping your mind focused on another task besides driving. This will remove your concentration from the road leading to a decrease in quick response times.

If you answered D, you have no distractions at all.

You’re keeping yourself and others safe while on the road.

Preventing distracted driving

It is important to note to become aware of possible distractions other than your cellphone. We engage in a variety of distractions without even realizing it. Using your phone behind the wheel is often the most common cause of distractions, since it combines manual, visual and cognitive. To ensure you are fully focused on the road in front of you and to avoid distractions while driving, you should:

  • Finish meals prior to getting behind the wheel
  • Program your GPS directions before starting your trip
  • Complete all calls, texts and emails prior to putting your car in motion
  • Turn your phone off, or if that is not possible, silence your phone so you are not distracted by ringtones and beeps

Removing these distractions can help prevent accidents.

Pennsylvania distracted driving law

Under the current Pennsylvania distracted driving law, drivers are prohibited from using an Interactive Wireless Communication Device to send, read or write a text-based communication while their car is in motion.

It is legal in Pennsylvania to talk on the phone while driving. However, a potential new bill may change this. The House Bill 37, proposes:

  • Drivers will not be allowed to hold a phone while driving; this includes using a GPS app on the phone
  • A phone’s GPS is only allowed to be used if the phone is attached to a surface like a docking station
  • Drivers younger than 18 are not able to use their phone at all, even if the car is stopped
  • Drivers are permitted to talk on the phone only if it is using Bluetooth or another hands-free device

If you or a loved one has been injured due to a distracted driver, contact an experience personal injury lawyer at KBG today.