Distracted driving is one of the most difficult hazards to avoid on American roads. Drivers throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey are distracted because their lives are busy, they have people in the car, and they are focused on digital technology. Information on distracted driving points to how prevalent it has been, and how it should be avoided as much as possible.
When someone gets in the car, they need to know how to protect themselves, avoid accidents, and create a safer environment in the vehicle. Teenagers who start driving must be made aware of the deadly ramifications of distracted driving, and someone who is busy, distracted, and not quite ready to drive should not get behind the wheel.
When an accident occurs, an experienced Philadelphia car accident lawyer can provide the victim with needed representation and guidance. Although compensation is available, accident victims must be aware of how to proceed when they are hurt. Nervous parents and adults who want to change their driving habits should learn how to stop distracted driving and avoid tragic accidents.
What are the Dangers of Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is dangerous because of how far it can take a driver before they realize where they are going. For the most part, a driver will travel about 100 yards at highway speeds in the time it takes them to glance at their phone. Although drivers may not think this is all that concerning, a driver who glances at their phone once every five minutes during an hour’s commute has traveled about three-quarters of a mile without paying attention to the road.
Drivers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania often travel to the Shore for a summer vacation, and they can spend two to three hours reaching the shore depending on where they live. If a driver is glancing at their phone every five minutes over the course of several hours, they could drive a few miles without ever looking at the road.
Distracted driving becomes even more dangerous when vehicles are not serviced properly. The vehicle could slide out of its lane with ease if the wheels are not aligned. Drivers cannot make emergency stops if their brakes are in poor condition.
The driver might also speed up because their focus is on a phone instead of the gas pedal, or the driver might slow down and cause a rear-end crash because they are not aware of how fast they are going compared with prevailing traffic conditions. If the driver’s lights are broken, their erratic behavior makes them unpredictable, and an accident could occur when another driver is surprised by a sudden stop or lane change.
The Prevalence of Distracted Driving
In 2018, 2800 people were killed and 400,000 more were injured in distracted driving accidents. It has been reported that 20 percent of those killed in distracted driving accidents were not even in a vehicle. Although distracted drivers believe that they can easily avoid other vehicles, they often forget about bicycles, motorcycles, and pedestrians. A distracted driver could pull through an intersection while checking their phone and never see a pedestrian who has nearly completed their crossing. In the worst cases, the driver might not notice a railroad crossing signal or commuter train warning light.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that students who text and drive do so regardless of their grades. Just because a student performs well does not mean that they are automatically a safe driver. Parents have a tendency to relax when their child is conscientious at school, but there is no way to know if that behavior will translate to the road.
Even as distracted driving accidents claim about nine lives per day, everyone has seen someone on the phone, texting, or engaging in other risky behavior. Although it may be tempting to honk the horn or gesture at these drivers, that may only serve to irritate them. Motorists should report distracted drivers to the local authorities and simply avoid them as much as possible.
Distracted driving often increases in rural areas of both New Jersey and Pennsylvania where drivers believe they have nothing to hit. These drivers, however, might strike fixed objects, run off the road, hit pedestrians on rural roads, hit animals that are crossing the road, or run off the road because they did not slow down for a sharp curve or drifted from their lane as another driver was coming the other way.
If an accident involves a distracted driver, victims should speak to a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. These accidents should not be left to chance, and it is possible that the other driver was distracted even if they did not appear so at the time of the accident.
How Does Driver Inexperience Cause Distracted Driving?
Driver inexperience plays a part in a wide range of accidents every day. For example, drivers under 20 years of age are the most likely to be injured or killed in distracted driving accidents. Almost 50 percent of children have said they have ridden in a vehicle where the driver was distracted, and 13 percent of teens in a national survey reported that they have texted while driving.
Even more troubling is that inexperienced drivers do not have the skills to deal with emergent situations on the road. Add to that other distractions on the road such as aggressive drivers, poor weather conditions, and heavy traffic, and inexperienced drivers are left in a bad position.
Because driver inexperience can be solved only with practice, parents should take every opportunity to teach their teens how to drive safely. Teens should be given the chance to drive whenever possible and be taught how to deal with certain situations on the road. A little education will create a smarter driver who better understands how to handle themselves.
Additionally, use of cell phones in car accidents has risen among teenagers, according to the Insurance Information Institute, whereas cell phone use among other age groups has dropped. Greater attention, then, should be paid to how teenagers interact with digital media when they get behind the wheel.
How can Motorists Avoid Distracted Driving?
Drivers should use as much care as possible to avoid distracted driving. Although most people believe that they are not distracted, it has been shown that vehicles can travel hundreds of feet in the seconds it takes to glance at a phone, answer the phone, type a text, or respond to an email. Even something as simple as fiddling with the radio looking for the right station can be dangerous. Drivers should take these simple steps to avoid distracted driving:
Use a phone grip. Although drivers are obviously not encouraged to use a phone while driving, a phone grip can be placed on a hook or stand. When the phone is placed on a stand or hook, it is out of the driver’s hands. While the phone is sitting in the stand or hook, the driver can reference a map or directions as they drive or see who is calling, texting, or sending emails. The driver, however, does not need to hold the phone or place it in their lap.
Use Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a good way to sync a phone with a vehicle. Now that the phone plays all directions, music, and phone calls through the vehicle’s speakers, the driver does not need to touch the phone. The Bluetooth system can accept voice commands, and it can dial, dictate texts, or dictate emails. The system will read directions from the GPS app, and the vehicle might even have phone controls on the steering wheel.
When this is the case, the driver can look straight ahead, talk to the phone, and never touch the phone. Drivers can also plug their phones in before they start driving to ensure the battery does not die.
Minimize conversation. Although it is natural to chat in the car, drivers should try to remain a minor participant in the conversation. If the driver is focused on the road, they can interject in the conversation instead of leading the conversation and focusing on something other than driving.
Focus on the road. Drivers often want to slow down and see accidents, cars that are pulled over, and other events happening around them. Rubbernecking alone is dangerous, but sudden stops are even more dangerous. Drivers who are focused on other things cannot see how traffic is accelerating or stopping. These drivers might drift out of their lanes, or they might stop so quickly that they cause a rear-end accident.
Teach young drivers to focus on the road. Teenage drivers often have an air of invincibility about them because they are young and do not have the life experience of an older driver. It helps to remind these drivers that they should watch the road, stay off their phones, and avoid confrontations with other drivers.
Pull over if there is a problem. Anyone who believes they are not able to drive safely should pull over as soon as possible. Drivers should take time to calm down from a road rage incident, have a heated discussion, take a phone call, or reply to a text or email. Pulling over is nothing to be ashamed of. Every other driver on the road has done so at some point in the past, and the driver can easily reenter traffic when they are ready.
A lawyer should be contacted if an accident has occurred even though the driver has taken care to avoid distractions. Others may not be so careful, and they must pay compensation to the victims.
Who is Responsible for Distracted Driving?
Most of the time, the driver is responsible for their own distracted driving. These drivers can be cited in police reports, or eyewitnesses may have seen them driving while distracted. Depending on the situation, the driver or someone in their vehicle may be cited or sued for distracted driving. Although the driver is most often the liable party, there are other issues that might arise on the road. Other forms of distraction include the following:
Road rage. Road rage can distract anyone as they focus their energy on the other driver. Road rage can become so distracting that drivers will quite literally do anything to keep up with the vehicle that angered them. This might involve several near accidents along the way or reckless maneuvers that should not have occurred. These incidents might also serve to distract other drivers who are watching the drama unfold.
Aggressive driving. Aggressive drivers can be difficult to handle, and that is why it is important to avoid them at all costs. It is best to slow down, let the aggressive driver pass, and try to move away from them as they approach. A driver who is terrified of being involved in an accident might focus too much on an aggressive driver and cause an accident.
Impending accidents. Impending accidents can cause distractions as drivers try to avoid one accident and cause another. Although the police report may not determine what occurred at the scene, a car accident lawyer will investigate the case and determine how another accident caused other drivers to be involved.
Poor weather or road conditions. Poor weather conditions or road conditions can be extremely distracting. Drivers should know that they do not need to be out in such extreme weather. Heavy wind, rain, or snow is just too much for most people to handle. Drivers must use common sense to avoid driving in bad conditions.
If the road conditions, however, become so bad that it is difficult to drive, drivers may need to pull over, turn on their hazard lights, or find an alternate route. Poorly designed roads can be blamed on the local government or state agency that manages the road.
Missing road signs/poorly designed roads. If road signs are missing or damaged, this may cause confusion and further distraction. As with poorly designed roads, the local or state agency that manages the road can be named in a lawsuit, as its lack of attention and maintenance caused an accident.
Construction zones. Construction zones are to be marked clearly, and construction equipment is to be kept off the road. Drivers, however, might encounter workers walking alongside the road, large machinery, signage, and debris that can be distracting and dangerous. The construction company can be held liable for accidents it has caused as a result of its negligence, and individuals who played a part in the accident may also be named in a lawsuit.
What are the Laws in Pennsylvania and New Jersey Regarding Distracted Driving?
In Pennsylvania, drivers are prohibited from using a cell phone or any other handheld electronic device while driving. This means that someone who is talking on the phone while holding the phone, texting, emailing, or typing on a cell phone can be pulled over and cited. Pennsylvania, instead, encourages drivers to use Bluetooth or other hands-free systems that integrate with vehicles. Distracted driving is a summary offense accompanied by a fine of $50.
The State of New Jersey has much steeper regulations in place. A first offense could carry a fine from $200 to $400. A second offense increases the fine up to as much as $600, and a third offense carries a fine of up to $800. The state may also suspend the driver’s license for up to 90 days. Drivers who work for public transportation authorities can be fined $1100 and spend six months in jail when convicted of distracted driving. New Jersey also takes care to explain what distraction means. New Jersey prefers that drivers avoid the following activities:
- Using handheld GPS systems
- Adjusting the radio
- Adjusting the air conditioner
- Talking with passengers
Eating, drinking, grooming, reading, and using handheld devices while driving are obvious activities that drivers should avoid. Using handheld GPS systems will take the driver’s eyes off the road, but it also adds an element of confusion. Someone who does not know where they are going has their mind on where they are going, how to use the GPS system, and typing in the GPS system. Driving has fallen by the wayside at this point.
Adjusting the radio or air conditioner is also a distraction. Drivers should ask a passenger to adjust the air conditioner or radio to keep the driver’s hands on the wheel. Talking with passengers is not necessarily a bad thing, but conversations tend to build. Drivers will start talking with their hands or even attempt to make eye contact with their passengers. If the discussion is heated or turns into an argument, it is even more dangerous for everyone in the car. Drivers should listen to the radio, use controls on the steering wheel for adjustments, and focus on the road.
Drivers should also use cruise control sparingly. Although cruise control might be an energy-efficient method for managing the car, drivers should not set their cruise control and sit back as if everything is alright. Traffic could stop at any time, and the speed of the vehicle must be constantly adjusted to remain safe.
Motorists should contact a car accident lawyer for assistance if an accident has occurred and it is clear that the other driver was distracted in one way or another.
Is Compensation Available After a Distracted Driving Accident?
Compensation is available after distracted driving accidents given that the victims were injured because of someone else’s negligence. Compensation that is offered after the accident pays directly for the expenses that the victims incurred because of the accident. Victims should not be forced to pay out-of-pocket, but they are often left to cover expenses until they can be compensated. Expenses covered by a lawsuit often include the following:
Medical expenses: These can include emergency care just after the accident, surgeries, doctor visits, prescriptions, physical therapy, counseling, transportation to medical facilities, and medical equipment. Some accident victims require vocational rehabilitation because they cannot go back to work. If the victim is susceptible to complications because of their injuries, a doctor can write a letter explaining why the victim requires extra compensation to pay for future medical care.
Lost work hours: This can begin the moment the victim is admitted to the hospital and extend to the date the victim may return to work. When someone is missing work, they cannot pay their bills or support their family. Therefore, it is important to hire a lawyer and file a claim for damages as soon as possible. Creditors do not know the family’s financial situation, and it is difficult to handle medical debt as well as a loss of income without filing suit.
Lost earning potential: Earning potential for accident victims is reduced when they are injured; victims may also sue for any income they could have made if the accident had not occurred.
Pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and punitive damages: These damages may be added to any lawsuit to help the victim recover. Non-economic damages, such as these, are often calculated by the victim’s lawyer, and they are awarded at trial. Victims should reach out to a car accident lawyer to prevent delays in the case and to respond to a distracted driving accident as quickly as possible.
Why Should Victims Hire a Lawyer?
Retaining a lawyer ensures that accident victims receive the vigorous representation to which they are entitled. Representing oneself is either frowned upon by the court or strictly disallowed. When a lawyer takes the case, they do all the work from investigating the case to seeking compensation. The lawyer will take letters and phone calls from other people, insurance companies, drivers, or law firms that want to settle. No one should speak on the case without their lawyer present. It is also helpful to refer these people directly to the family lawyer to end a conversation.
An experienced car accident lawyer is an expert on the value of these cases, arguing the case at trial, or settling the case out of court. Settling out of court is a good way to close the case and receive compensation without prolonging the case. Going to court allows clients to share all their information, and a lawyer can appeal a ruling that does not favor the victim.
A lawyer can also help accident victims with other problems they may encounter after their accident. There are several situations for which families may need help, including disability, wrongful death lawsuits, and claims against insurance companies.
Dealing with insurance companies is especially difficult because they have lawyers who will represent their interests and try to save money. Moreover, the insurance company might have caused the victims further injury because claims were not paid faithfully. Turning to a lawyer helps the family choose the appropriate legal course of action.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Nerenberg Law Associates, P.C. Help Those Injured in Distracted Driving Accidents
When you are hurt in an accident involving a distracted driver, remember that you deserve compensation and assistance recovering monies related to the accident. Speak to the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Nerenberg Law Associates, P.C. to learn more about the legal process and your rights. We provide excellent client care for every victim or their family. Call us today at 215-569-9100 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.