Scranton Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer
Of the millions of car accidents that occur in the country every year, a large percentage of them stem from driver error. Within this category, driver distraction is the most common culprit. In the digital era, driver distraction is more of an issue than ever. Distracted legislation passed down in Pennsylvania has banned texting while driving, which is classified as a “primary offense” under state law. For years, the modest punishment has done little to deter drivers from driving and texting (a scant $50 fine and no record). But recent legislation aims to change that.
Distracted Driving and Daniel’s Law
In early 2017, Governor Tom Wolf signed a comprehensive driving reform into law, named for a Pennsylvania man who was struck from behind on his motorcycle and killed by a distracted driver. Daniel’s Law aims to treat distracted driving as a serious offense by:
- Creating a punishment similar to drunk driving.
- Increasing punishments for those convicted of vehicular homicide.
- Adding points to your record for texting and driving.
Distracted Driving as a Public Health Threat
Daniel’s Law is also intended as an education effort with a powerful message: distracted driving kills. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were nearly 3,500 deaths nationwide as a result of distracted driving. In 2015, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation reported 14,800 crashes involving distracted driving, leading to 66 deaths.
PennDOT defines distracted driving as anything that takes your attention away from the road. Though texting and driving is the only thing that’s strictly prohibited, they also strongly discourage actions such as:
- Emailing, checking your social networks, or using a mobile GPS system
- Personal grooming activities
- Eating, drinking, or smoking
- Looking at people, sights, or accidents happening off the roadway
Types of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is anything that takes a driver’s hands, eyes, or attention away from the driving task. There are many common causes of distracted driving responsible for the injuries and deaths of thousands of people every year, including:
- Use of electronic devices – About 25 percent of all car accidents relate to cell phone use. Fiddling with the radio, the GPS, or a phone while driving is incredibly dangerous. Scrolling through social media accounts, chatting with someone on the phone, or looking at a digital map behind the wheel are all common causes of car accidents.
- Texting and driving – Despite Pennsylvania’s texting-while-driving ban, many drivers are guilty of this dangerous habit every day. Texting and driving can take one’s eyes, hands, and attention away from the driving task. Reading one text is enough to cause a fatal car accident. Most drivers using cell phones at the time of collisions are liable for resultant injuries.
- Eating and drinking – Restaurant drive-thrus with “easy to eat” foods such as cheeseburgers and tacos have cultivated an eating-while-driving culture. Driving with only one hand or taking one’s eyes off the road to eat puts the driver at risk of causing a collision.
- Talking to passengers – Passengers can contribute to harmful distracted driving accidents, keeping a driver’s attention off the road. If a driver has particularly distracting passengers, it’s his or her duty to ask them to sit in the back or refrain from speaking unnecessarily during drives. Young drivers are particularly susceptible to passenger distractions.
- Personal grooming – Many busy workers use their morning commute to finish getting ready in the mornings. Drinking coffee, brushing one’s hair, applying makeup, putting on a tie, and other such actions risk the driver’s life and the lives of those around him or her.
Negligence and Distracted Driving
Pennsylvania is unusual in that it’s one of only 12 “choice no-fault” states. In other words, you may elect to purchase traditional insurance coverage, or no-fault coverage. Purchasing traditional coverage means you’re free to pursue civil lawsuits for negligence, while no-fault coverage places restrictions on when you can sue. If you’re within your rights to file a civil suit following a car accident, one of the first things your attorney will look for is evidence of distracted driving.
When a driver sues another for damages resulting from a car accident, they have to prove that the driver they’re suing caused an accident through their own carelessness, legally referred to as negligence. Recently, more plaintiffs have been successful in arguing that the defendant was responsible for the accident because they were using their cell phone while driving. These are examples of how an attorney may make a case for distracted driving:
- The defendant was driving with only one hand on the steering wheel.
- A conversation kept the defendant from keeping their focused attention on the task of driving.
- The defendant took his or her eyes off the road to reach for a cell phone, or check a message.
- Even when using a hands-free device, an emotionally charged conversation can lead a driver to divert focus from the road.
Distractions on the road aren’t only physical. Cognitive distractions take lives as well. Trying to focus on the task of driving while angry, upset, or otherwise mentally distracted is dangerous. Anything that impairs a driver’s ability to react to changing roadway situations such as a child running out into the road, pedestrians crossing an intersection, a stoplight changing, or a vehicle hitting its brakes is a harmful distraction. A driver should never engage in conversation while driving if the conversation will be upsetting.
Pursuing Compensation After a Distracted Driving Accident
If you have reason to believe something distracted another driver at the time of your accident, you should be eligible to receive compensation for your injuries. The other driver’s insurance company, however, will do its best to minimize the award you receive for damages. Instead of taking on complex insurance company negotiations alone, speak to an attorney. A car accident lawyer can prevent an insurance company from taking advantage of you.
When you need a dependable legal partner to help you through the trying times following a car accident, come to Rosenbaum & Associates in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, PA, area. We understand state and local distracted driving laws, and can help you speak with insurance companies after a crash. Our team is here for you in your time of need. To schedule a free consultation, contact us.