Cell phones, social media, GPS devices, and other infotainment technologies have consistently been the cause of potentially deadly distracted driving accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 2,841 people were killed and approximately 400,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2018. Alarmingly, the distracted driving epidemic has only gotten worse during the pandemic, according to evidence by a new 2020 study.
The recently published Zendrive Collision Report analyzed 86,000 crashes and 185 billion miles of data to determine how the pandemic has changed the way Americans drive. According to the report, there was a 63 percent increase in collisions per million miles between January and November of 2020. Apparently, more people are taking Zoom calls, looking at Instagram, or watching TV on their phones while driving than ever before; 57 percent of all crashes involved phone use, 16.8 percent of which such use occurred five seconds prior to impact. Other bad driving behaviors have increased as well; the report shows that 17 percent of crashes involved speeding and 75 percent involved hard braking.
Researchers compared driving behaviors during January, March, and during the latest surge of the virus in October and November. They found that cell phone distraction was at its highest in March, followed by a significant decrease in October. However, while the duration of cell phone use while driving has gone down, the frequency has gone up; from January to November, there was a 17 percent increase in phone usage events per 100 miles. Although Philadelphia has one of the highest fatal crash rates in the nation, the report’s U.S. major city analysis ranks it among the top five cities with the lowest phone use.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is operating a vehicle while one’s attention is diverted from the road. There are many types of distractions, including cell phones, food, and passengers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies three main types of distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive. Texting while driving is a particularly dangerous behavior because it involves all three types of distractions.
Using a cell phone while driving increases the risk of deaths and injuries on the road, according to the NHTSA. However, any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from driving is dangerous; taking one’s eyes off the road for two seconds doubles the risk of getting in an accident. AAA reports that in the U.S., distracted driving kills an average of nine people and injures over 1,000 per day.
Who is Most at Risk for Distracted Driving?
Although anyone can have their attention diverted away from the road, young adults and teenagers are most at risk for distracted driving, according to the CDC. In 2018, 25 percent of distracted drivers involved in crashes were aged 20 to 29. However, in fatal crashes, drivers aged 15 to 19 were more likely to be distracted than those aged 20 years and older; nine percent of all teens who died in car accidents were killed in crashes involving distracted driving.
A 2019 CDC survey also revealed that 39 percent of high school students who drove in the past 30 days texted or emailed while driving during that time. Such behavior was more common among older teens than younger teens. Those who reported texting or emailing while driving were also more likely to engage in other risky driving behaviors, such as not wearing a seat belt, driving under the influence of alcohol, or riding with a driver who had been drinking.
How can I Prevent Distracted Driving Accidents?
The CDC advises drivers to refrain from multitasking while driving; this includes adjusting the mirrors, eating, applying makeup, making a phone call, adjusting the radio, searching for an object in the vehicle, reading an email, or doing anything else other than focusing on the road. Drivers can reduce their risk of being involved in a distracted driving accident by not engaging in any of these behaviors while driving. Many activities, such as entering an address into the GPS, adjusting the seats and mirrors, and retrieving objects from the glove compartment, can be done prior to getting on the road. AAA provides some tips on how to avoid distractions while driving, including:
- Driving attentively
- Storing loose gear that could roll around in the car and make any necessary adjustments to the steering wheel, seat, and mirror before hitting the road
- Completing personal grooming and eating at home
- Avoiding eating messy, difficult to manage foods while driving
- Pulling over if a passenger requires attention
- Asking passengers to assist by not being distracting
- Not using a cell phone while driving
Are There Any Laws Against Distracted Driving?
Although there is no law preventing drivers from talking on their phones while driving in Pennsylvania, using an interactive wireless communication device, such as a cell phone, to write, send, or read a text-based communication while driving is banned. Texting while driving in Pennsylvania is punishable by a $50 fine, in addition to other fees, surcharges, and court costs. Several states have seen positive results from laws enacted to help prevent distracted driving, including Pennsylvania.
The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) reports that distracted driving citations in the state decreased by five percent from 2017 to 2018. However, they have increased by 118 percent over the last five years. Distracted drivers who cause car accidents may be not only be civilly liable for the other driver’s injuries, but may also face criminal charges if the accident leads to the victim’s death.
Compensation for Injuries Sustained in a Distracted Driving Accident
Those who are injured in car accidents caused by distracted drivers may be eligible for various forms of compensation from the at-fault driver depending on which type of car insurance they have. Under the state’s choice no-fault rule, Pennsylvania drivers who carry limited tort car insurance are entitled to economic damages from their own insurance company, regardless of who was at-fault for the accident.
While their monthly premiums and liability are reduced, they are also limited in their ability to sue at-fault drivers; those with such insurance may only step outside the no-fault system if they have what qualifies as a serious injury. On the other hand, those who carry traditional, full tort car insurance may be able to sue an at-fault driver for non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, as well. However, to recover any damages at all in a personal injury lawsuit, a plaintiff must be less than 51 percent at-fault for the accident.
Under Pennsylvania’s modified comparative negligence law, those who are deemed to be less than 51 percent to blame for the accident may still recover from an at-fault party. However, the amount will be reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, if a plaintiff is entitled to $100,000 in damages but they were 25 percent responsible for the accident, they will receive $75,000. Personal injury plaintiffs must also file suit within the two-year statute of limitations to remain eligible for compensation.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Advocate for Victims of Distracted Driving Crashes
If you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, contact a Philadelphia car accident lawyer at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC. Our experienced legal team fights for those injured by negligent and reckless drivers. Contact us online for a free consultation or call us at 215-569-8488. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.