Texting while driving poses injury risks to Pennsylvania drivers

Pennsylvania drivers, passengers and pedestrians are vulnerable to the dangers of drivers choosing to text while behind the wheel

Communicating through text messages is a common activity for people in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. Billions of these communications are sent every day, some of which while the senders are driving.

Texting while driving falls under the category of distracted driving, which includes any source of cognitive distraction to the driver. Common sources of distraction, in addition to texting, include food, passengers, music and beauty products.

Understood risk

Many organizations have identified the danger posed by texting while driving. Data from the National Safety Council shows that texting while driving causes 1.6 million car accidents per year. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has estimated that texting while driving causes eleven teen deaths per day.

According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, texting while driving multiplies the probability of crashing by 23. Considering the distractive effect of texting while driving, it is not difficult to see why this is the case. Looking down at a smart phone to read, write or send a text is equivalent to closing one's eyes for a few seconds. Depending on the car's speed at the time, the distance traveled during those few seconds can be surprisingly long.

Illegal in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania state law prohibits texting while driving. Specifically, in Pennsylvania it is illegal for any driver to use what is defined as an Interactive Wireless Communication Device. These devices are used to read, write and send text messages, all three of which are against the law while the vehicle is in motion. There are a few important caveats to what the law prohibits. GDP devices, as well as other devices that are physically or electronically integrated into the vehicle, are permitted.

It is important to remember that the law broadly defines a text-based communication. In addition to Short Message Services, instant messages, emails and Internet browsing qualify under the state's definition.

In Pennsylvania, texting while driving is a primary offense. As a primary offense, law enforcement officials can pull over a driver solely on the basis of suspected violation of this law. Without primary offense status, drivers would only be charged with texting while driving if another primary offense warranted pulling them over. Penalties for a conviction include a $50 fine, as well as court costs and other fees.

Compensation may be available

Drivers, passengers or pedestrians who sustain injuries due to distracted drivers may be eligible for compensation. These personal injuries result in damages, such as medical costs, lost wages and emotional distress. However, navigating the legal processes required to obtain benefits for damages can be challenging. For this reason, injury victims of distracted driving may wish to consult with a Pennsylvania personal injury attorney.

Keywords: distracted, accident, injury