Dei Lynam: Welcome to Pennsylvania Law TV. Today we will be talking about distracted driving. My guest is attorney Dave Miller and he is going to talk to us about this topic. So Dave, thanks for being here today.
Dave Miller: Thank you for having me.
Dei Lynam: Well Dave, what is distracted driving?
Dave Miller: Well, quite generally distracted driving is anything that causes you to lose your attention from the road while driving, divert your eyes from the roadway ahead, or takes your hands off the wheel while you’re driving. I think of a few examples in everyday life. Adjusting the radio, reaching back to wipe the ice cream cone from your child’s face. If your cell phone slid off the seat next to you and you’re reaching down for that. These are all obviously things that are taking your attention away from the job that you have and that is to operate your vehicle safely.
Dei Lynam: How common is it?
Dave Miller: It’s unfortunately, extremely common. I have some statistics from the United States Department of Transportation that calculated in 2014, over 3100 people were killed in distracted driving crashes and 431,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers. If you go onto the Department of Transportation’s website you’ll see that they have declared that this an epidemic situation and there are many resources on Distraction.Gov that will give you some information on how to avoid distracted driving, what to look out for if you think there is a distracted driver near you.
Dei Lynam: Wow, those statistics are alarming.
Dave Miller: They sure are. They sure are.
Dei Lynam: Well, Dave, what are the cellphone laws in Pennsylvania, relative to driving?
Dave Miller: Well, back in March 2012, Pennsylvania enacted a law that restricts any texting while driving. This law preempts any local laws on the use of cellphones while driving. As the state of Pennsylvania exists right now, the only ban on cellphone use while operating a vehicle is texting and that applies across anyone that has a license. There have been other attempts in the Legislature since that has been enacted to strengthen these laws, but they have been unsuccessful to date. Sort of unfortunate as you look around to our neighboring states. New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware, in addition to the cellphone texting ban, they also have a ban across the board for any aged licensed driver for handheld use of a cellphone while driving. Hands free use is permitted but holding a cellphone in those states is against the law, in addition to the texting, which I think everybody can agree that texting and driving is an unsafe thing to do.
There is a study that says at 55 miles per hour, it takes an individual five seconds to look at a text and in that amount of time you can travel the distance of a football field. That’s some scary stuff to think about. When you look at the surrounding states it’s important that you know those laws because if you’re taking the family down to the shore for a weekend trip, pretty much any state that you’re going to be driving through to get to a shore point is going to prevent you from talking with your cellphone without using a hands free device.
Dei Lynam: Interesting. Now, what are some safeguards to help us avoid being a victim of distracted driving?
Dave Miller: The primary safeguard is don’t be a distracted driver yourself. Know what distracted driving is. Know how to prevent it. If you know that you’re expecting a phone call or important text pull off to the side of the road. Using a cellphone is one of the most dangerous things you can do while operating a vehicle and unfortunately we see it day in and day out. The statistics are there to show the dangers of cellphone use and driving. The other thing I would suggest is if you know that you’re in front of someone and you look in your rear view mirror and their eyes keep converting down and down repeatedly, just let them go by. The chances are that person having their eyes down while you’re driving and maybe you have to stop for some congestion ahead their eyes may be down when they need to be hitting the brake pedal. Unfortunately they may be running their vehicle into the rear of yours.
Dei Lynam: Excellent information Dave. If someone has specific questions, how can they reach your office?
Dave Miller: They can reach us in two ways. They can go to our website at www.OConnorLaw.com or reach us by the phone at 1-800-518-4LAW.
Dei Lynam: Thank you for your time today.
Dave Miller: Thank you.
Dei Lynam: Until next time, this is Dei Lynam for Pennsylvania Law TV.