Posted on Apr 14, 2015
Scott Cooper of Schmidt Kramer helped legislators and advocates to try and combat distracted driving by participating in a news conference yesterday.
“As Pennsylvania recognizes April as “Distracted Driving Awareness Month,” state Sens. Rob Teplitz and John Wozniak called for strengthening the laws on distracted driving during the Capitol news conference. Scott represented the state-wide trial lawyers organization, the Pennsylvania Association of Justice (PAJ) at the press event.
Teplitz and Wozniak have co-authored Senate Bill 153, which makes the driver’s use of a handheld mobile device while operating a motor vehicle a summary secondary offense subject to a fine of $50 for the first violation, $100 for a second violation, and $150 for a third or subsequent violation. There would be no violation of the law unless the person was also convicted of another traffic offense.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation would conduct a six-month education campaign prior to the distracted driving violation going into effect.
The bill contains exemptions for use of such devices during emergency situations or by law enforcement or emergency service providers.
The lawmakers also co-sponsored a resolution designating the month of April as “Distracted Driving Awareness Month” in Pennsylvania, which recently received unanimous support in the Senate.
“Pennsylvania law bans texting while driving, but distracted driving is still a real problem that endangers motorists, passengers, and bystanders alike. Anyone can easily become a culprit or a victim of distracted driving,” said Teplitz (D-Dauphin/Perry). “We all rely on our mobile devices to provide us with helpful information and entertainment, but all drivers should keep their complete attention on driving while on the road. Unfortunately, distracted driving incidents are rising, so we must continue to convey this message and enact consequences for committing this dangerous and potentially deadly act.”
In 2012, more than 421,000 people were injured in accidents resulting from distracting driving — a 9 percent increase from 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 3,300 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver.
Additionally, a recent AAA Foundation study showed that teen drivers were distracted almost a quarter of the time they were behind the wheel.
“Distracted driving is a safety issue that impacts every community in Pennsylvania, so it’s important that we highlight its dangers and enact common sense legislation that deters this terrible habit,” said Wozniak (D-Bedford/Cambria/Clearfield), the Democratic chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “Recognizing ‘Distracted Driving Awareness Month’ and introducing legislation reminds us that no momentary distraction is worth risking our own lives, or the lives other passengers, motorists, and pedestrians.”
The news conference featured a talk and video presentation by Joel Feldman of Springfield, Delaware County, whose 21-year-old daughter, Casey, was killed by a distracted driver in 2009.
Through the Casey Feldman Foundation and a website, www.enddd.org, Joel Feldman has reached hundreds of thousands of students, families, educators and public officials across the nation about ending distracted driving.
He said teenage drivers and their parents alike need reminders about staying focused while driving.
“As I speak with teens across Pennsylvania, I hear repeatedly that their moms and dads will drive distracted with them in the car,” Feldman said. “’Do as I say not as I do’” is a risky way for parents to try to teach our children to be safe drivers. As parents, we need to model safe driving for our children. We need to be the drivers we want our teens to be.
“We need to change the way we think about distracted driving so that one day, just like with drunk driving, it will not be socially acceptable to drive distracted,” he added. “Legislation is a great first step, but we need education and parents modeling safe driving for their children every time they drive. We also need employers adopting safe driving policies for their employees and encouraging their employees to discuss safe distraction-free driving at home.”
“Over the past several years we have seen an increase in the number of preventable collisions, injuries and deaths on our roadways due to distracted driving. As trial lawyers, the members of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice (PAJ), unfortunately, often see the tragedy and losses caused as a result of preventable accidents,” said Scott Cooper, an active member of PAJ and the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association. “PAJ thanks Senators Teplitz and Wosniak, and EndDD founder and fellow trial lawyer Joel Feldman for helping to fight distracted driving.”
Joel Feldman’s video presentation is available online at https://www.youtube.com/embed/dPrZCCjrFLs“
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