Importantly, the new Pennsylvania distracted driving law makes texting while driving a primary offense. This means that law enforcement officials may pull over a driver whenever they have probable cause to believe the offense has occurred. This is a significant departure from many of the local distracted driving ordinances which had categorized the offense as a secondary offense, which meant that a driver could only be cited for texting while driving if they were pulled over for some other violation.
The Pennsylvania car accident lawyers at Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. are pleased to support the new Pennsylvania texting while driving law but we also offer this cautionary note. Pennsylvania’s traffic laws are helpful guides to safe driving behavior but they are only minimum standards. So, while there are no Pennsylvania laws that specifically make it illegal to use a cell phone, eat, apply makeup or daydream while driving, most of these activities should be avoided altogether and none should be engaged in except under circumstances where the behavior (such as talking on a cell phone) is safe.
There were 14,000 accidents reported in Pennsylvania that were attributed to distracted driving. Of these, only 1,100 involved a hand-held cell phone. The numbers reveal that texting while driving is a problem but it is only a part of the larger problem of distracted driving. This squares with our own experience as Erie injury lawyers. We’ve spoken with countless drivers who turned left in front of oncoming traffic or who failed to stop in time and rear-ended a car in front of them and the story we hear is almost always the same. “I never saw them,” is what we hear. Well, they didn’t materialize out of the ether. The driver “never saw them” because the driver wasn’t paying attention. Usually, the driver is unable to tell us what they were paying attention to that prevented them from seeing the car accident victim in time.
Our hope as Pennsylvania accident attorneys is that drivers will take the opportunity of this recent legislation to remind themselves of the responsibility they undertake when they choose to operate a several thousand pound vehicle that can travel at high speed. The responsibility drivers undertake is to operate the vehicle safely and the minimum safety standard a driver must meet is to pay attention to the operation of the vehicle.