Pennsylvania Bill Would Toughen Penalties for Distracted Driving

The CDC reports that, in 2012, more than 421,000 people were injured and another 3,300 killed as a direct result of distracted driving.

Pennsylvania Bill Would Toughen Penalties for Distracted DrivingEarlier this year a Bill was introduced which would make the use of a cell phone while driving a primary offense. Currently, no violation can occur unless the driver is first convicted of another traffic offense. In other words, if a person ran a stop sign while texting, then the texting charge could only be put into place if that person were first convicted of running the stop sign. While Pennsylvania already has a law prohibiting texting while driving, this new Bill would ban handheld cell phone use altogether. Under this proposed law, both law enforcement and EMS providers would be exempt under specific circumstances, and drivers would be allowed to use hands-free devices. If the Bill is passed, Pennsylvania will become the 15th state to completely ban hand-held cell phone use. The Bill is currently before the Senate Transportation Committee.

A 2012 Pennsylvania law, which outlawed texting and driving for all motorists, made it a primary offense with a $50 fine and as much as $90 in court costs. It was expected that the number of texting Pennsylvania drivers would decrease. In fact, the number of deaths related to texting and driving did decline since the law was passed, but it could have had as much to do with vigilant police officers. More than 1,300 citations were issued in Pennsylvania during the year following the passing of the texting ban Bill. Research from the University of Wisconsin showed texting bans work best when accompanied by a total ban on handheld phone use, making enforcement much easier.

The following statistics relate to bans on texting and driving:

Enhanced Penalties for Pennsylvania Drivers Who Severely Injure or Kill While Distracted

  • While fatalities among teenaged drivers rose nearly 20 percent across the nation during the first 180 days of 2013, those rates were lowered in Pennsylvania.
  • The chances of having an automobile crash are multiplied 23 times when the driver is texting.
  • It is estimated that texting while driving is responsible for at least 1.6 million crashes every year.
  • Composing a text message can be likened to the driver closing his or her eyes for five seconds. During that five seconds, a car going 55 mph can travel the length of a football field.
  • Despite the fact that 97 percent of teens admit that texting and driving is dangerous, as many as 43 percent admit to doing it. Of these same teens, 59 percent stated they have seen their parents text and drive.
  • According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, eleven teen deaths every day can be attributed to texting while driving.

    Enhanced Penalties for Pennsylvania Drivers Who Severely Injure or Kill While Distracted

    More recently, a Pennsylvania representative introduced legislation which would increase the penalties for drivers who are texting, and, as a result, cause an accident with serious injuries or death. The Bill, House Bill 853, could increase the penalties for vehicular homicide, aggravated assault by vehicle, or involuntary manslaughter by vehicle by adding an additional five years to the sentencing. The goal, according to State Representative Jaret Gibbons, is to bring the penalties for distracted driving to the same level as the penalties for driving under the influence. The Bill is alternatively know as Daniel’s Law, named for Daniel Gallatin, a Pennsylvania man driving a motorcycle who was killed after being hit from behind by a texting driver.

    Until these Bills become laws, it is still advisable to keep your cell phone in your glove box or your purse when you are driving, and to resist the urge to look at your phone while behind the wheel. There is really nothing so urgent that it cannot wait for ten or fifteen minutes, and your life—and the lives of your fellow drivers—are certainly worth not touching your cell phone while you drive.

    Contact Our Experienced Car Accident Lawyers

    If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident because of a distracted driver, it is important to review all of your legal options. At McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., our experienced Pennsylvania personal injury lawyers can answer all of your questions and help you choose the legal pathway that is best for you and your family.

    The Philadelphia car accident attorneys at McLaughlin & Lauricella, P.C., have more than 68 years experience representing injured accident victims and their families across Philadelphia, Berks, Bucks, Dauphin, Delaware, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Montgomery, and Northampton counties. We area also proud to serve injured accident victims throughout the State of New Jersey. Contact us today at 215-568-1510 or fill out our confidential contact form to learn more about your legal options.

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