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Texting while driving

Technology plays an increasing role in enhancing our quality of life, yet such use behind the wheel can have devastating consequences. Distracted driving is an epidemic on America’s highways, and the federal government and many states are committed to ending it. Texting and cellphone use behind the wheel significantly increases a driver’s risk of crashing. Even a single, momentary distraction while driving can cause a lifetime of pain. Driver inattention places other drivers and pedestrians in grave danger.

Currently, 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico ban texting while driving for drivers of all ages. Twelve states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban drivers of all ages from using handheld cellphones while driving. Research shows that when these laws are enforced, distracted driving incidents go down. Distracted driver laws include activity not only such as texting and talking, but also eating, drinking, and grooming.

The Facts

As of December 2012, 171.3 billion text messages were sent in the US every month. The number of people killed in distraction-affected crashes decreased slightly from 3,360 in 2011 to 3,328 in 2012. An estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, this was a nine percent increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011. Drivers under the age of 20 account for 27% of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted. Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of handheld phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by threefold.

The Law

April is recognized as Distracted Driver Awareness Month. On April 1, 2014, the State of New Jersey recently launched a distracted driver crackdown, tagged with the slogan “U drive, U text, U Pay.” Police officers are paying closer attention and targeting those drivers texting or talking on handheld phones throughout the month of April. The enforcement is statewide and 24 hours, 7 days a week. If caught, drivers can expect at least a $35 to $200 additional fine. In Pennsylvania, as part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Commonwealth urged motorists to drive distraction free. There were reportedly 14,600 crashes in Pennsylvania involving distracted drivers in 2012, with 57 resulting in deaths.

Distracted Driver laws are stricter in New Jersey than in Pennsylvania. Currently, the primary law in Pennsylvania bans texting while driving, while New Jersey bans any and all handheld use for drivers, including texting and talking. Drivers in New Jersey cannot be seen holding or using their phone. Voice command phone signals are acceptable for both New Jersey and Pennsylvania, at the moment.

Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4-6 seconds, the equivalent (at 55 miles per hour) of driving the length of an an entire football field while blind. The attorneys at Solnick & Levin, LLC pride themselves on representing those individuals who have been injured by a distracted driver, but most important strongly advise everyone to drive safely.

Photo Credit: Skip&Nell via Compfight cc

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