What more can be done to fight distracted driving in Pennsylvania and around the United States?
In the period from 2009 to 2013, the number of states that had laws against distracted driving on the books went from 18 to 41. However, the market for smartphones exploded during the same period. Declining prices and consumer demand meant that more and more drivers had instant access to electronic communications each year in that period. The result: the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that about 3,000 people are killed annually from distracted drivers.
It’s not as if the message isn’t being received. Surveys by AAA and AT&T found that 94 percent of all drivers and 97 percent of teens recognized that texting while driving is a significant risk. But 43 percent of teenage drivers—and 35 percent of drivers of all ages—admitted that they read or write text messages while behind the wheel, despite understanding the risks. The actual rate of smartphone use may be much higher, of course, because we are relying on driver’s own admissions.
What sort of rational public policy options are available, when more than a third of all drivers knowingly engage in behavior that puts themselves, their passengers, and other motorists at deadly risk? If such a large fraction of drivers choose to not cooperate with current laws or their own commonsense understanding of the risks—can any approach find success?
Maybe. A number of policy experts are converging on a single solution: if people will not choose to turn off their mobile devices when they drive, then stop giving them the choice—disable the devices automatically.
Roy LaHood: The View From Washington
Ray LaHood served as U.S. Transportation Secretary until January 2013. Even though he is no longer in office, he has not given up the fight against distracted driving.
LaHood strongly endorses a nationwide law against drivers’ use of electronic devices. “If I were still secretary,” he recently said, “I would be encouraging senators and House members to introduce legislation and to hold hearings. This has to be one of the number one safety items on people’s agendas if they really want to save lives and make roadways safer.”
But Secretary LaHood recognizes that people don’t always obey existing laws, so he favors a technological solution: a device built into every vehicle that would disable cellphone operations while the vehicle is in motion. LaHood acknowledges that there are still problems with this conception that need to be solved—a key one being that passengers as well as the driver would be unable to use their phones.
Rep. Joseph Markosek: The Harrisburg Perspective
State Representative Joseph F. Markosek (D–Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties) is focused more closely on the problem of distracted driving in Pennsylvania. He has sponsored legislation (H.B. 693) to prohibit drivers from using handheld devices.
“Our current ban on texting while driving is a step in the right direction, but it is inadequate in protecting people from drivers—especially teens—distracted by handheld devices,” Markosek has written. “People of all ages should have their hands on the wheel and be focused on the road when they are driving.”
Rep. Markosek’s bill makes an exception for GPS devices and for certain traffic conditions.
Don’t Be Victimized by Pennsylvania Distracted Driving Car Crashes
Of course, in today’s poisonous political climate, getting distracted driving legislation through the U.S. Congress or the Pennsylvania Assembly will be a challenge. Until government officials move forward, we will have to rely on existing laws and deterrents.
One of the most powerful deterrents for distracted driving is when the driver knows he will be forced to take responsibility for his misbehavior. If you have been hurt in a Pennsylvania car accident where distracted driving was a factor, you need to demand fair and full compensation for your injuries from the driver who was at fault.
That’s where our auto crash attorneys in Harrisburg come into the picture. Call the Schmidt Kramer legal team at (717) 888-8888 toll-free to schedule a free, confidential review of your case and an analysis of our strategy to recoup your losses. Our legal team has a sterling record in guiding vehicle injury cases in central Pennsylvania to a successful conclusion.