driving while texting on your phone

Distracted Driving: One Text or Call Could Wreck It All

By Troy L. M. Brown, III, Lawyer at Metzger Wickersham

In Harrisburg, PA and across the U.S., Americans are always on the go. With morning routines demanding so much juggling, many women leave themselves with no time to apply makeup at home, and instead opt to put it on during their morning commute. There are many instances where multi-tasking is a great idea, but it is never a good idea while driving.

Are you guilty of using your rearview mirror as a vanity for applying makeup? While putting on makeup or eating breakfast may seem like an easy way to save some time, think twice before doing so. You may be putting yourself and other drivers at risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day about 8 people in the U.S. are killed in crashes that involve a distracted driver.

What is Distracted Driving?

Anything that takes your eyes, hands, or mind off of focusing solely on driving is considered distracted driving. Some examples of common forms of distracted driving that individuals do behind the wheel are:

  • Texting on a handheld device
  • Talking on a cell phone, Smartphone or electronic device
  • Eating, drinking, or smoking
  • Grooming (applying makeup)
  • Reaching for things inside the vehicle on the dashboard, seat, floor or backseat
  • Looking at things outside the vehicle or rubbernecking
  • Pets in the car
  • Changing the radio or climate control
  • Using a navigation system or GPS
  • Talking to passengers
  • Reading, including maps
  • Daydreaming

Some less common, extremely dangerous, and in no way recommended, forms of distracted driving include:

As this list shows, almost all driving distractions are under the control of the driver and are avoidable.

How Dangerous is Distracted Driving?

According to the CDC, “In 2018, over 2,800 people in the U.S. were killed and an estimated 400,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that the number of deaths from distracted driving jumped 10% from 2018 to 2019, claiming 3,142 lives.

How to Prevent Distracted Driving

Whenever you drive, focus your attention on the road and the operation of your car with a safety first approach.

Cell phones, even hands-free devices, are one of the biggest distractions. Using a cell phone while driving is actually against the law in many states. The Pennsylvania law prohibits any driver from using an Interactive Wireless Communication Device (IWCD) to send, read or write a text-based communication while his or her vehicle is in motion. The penalty is a summary offense with a $50 fine, plus court costs and other fees.

Set your phone to silent before you get in the car, and never text or scroll through social media while driving. Cell phone use can be habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Put your cell phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of the vehicle until you arrive at your destination.

Besides avoiding cell phones, the following tips can help you stay focused:

  • Avoid eating, drinking, and smoking while driving.
  • Do not multitask while driving.
  • Pull over if you need something from the floor, dashboard, glove compartment, or another part of the car.
  • Pull over if you need to text or talk on a cell phone or designate a passenger as the designated texter. Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
  • Don’t engage in sightseeing while you drive. Stop your car in a safe place if you want to look around.
  • Adjust climate controls, radio, and other GPS systems before you start driving, or pull over to make adjustments, or ask a front-seat passenger to assist you.
  • Require passengers to keep their seat belts on at all times and ask for their cooperation in helping you keep your attention on driving.
  • Do not drive when you are upset, excited, or having other strong emotions or physical symptoms which could interfere with your concentration.
  • Transport pets in pet carriers or have them secured safely in the rear of the car. Secure objects inside the vehicle so they do not roll around.

Spread the Word — #JustDrive

In addition to providing tips on what you can do to avoid distracted driving, the NHTSA also provides ways you can raise awareness and help the fight to end distracted driving.

  • Remind your friends and family: If you’re in the driver’s seat, it’s the only thing you should be doing. No distractions.
  • If your driver is texting or otherwise distracted, tell them to stop and focus on the road.
  • Ask your friends to join you in pledging not to drive distracted. You could save a life. Share your pledge on social media to spread the word — #JustDrive.

What to do if You’ve Become a Victim of Distracted Driving?

At Metzger Wickersham, we are all too familiar with the consequences of distracted driving. If you or a loved one have been injured by someone who was texting while driving, talking on a handheld cell phone, or otherwise not paying attention behind the wheel, contact us today. Call (888) 286-2850 or contact us online to request a free consultation.

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