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Could accidents be prevented with better distracted driving laws?

Earlier this month on our Pennsylvania personal injury blog, we wrote about how one woman's life was permanently altered by a distracted driver who crashed into her family's vehicle. The accident killed her parents and inflicted catastrophic injuries on the woman, who now travels the country to advocate for stronger distracted driving laws. The woman said that Pennsylvania's laws against distracted driving are especially tame compared with those in other states.

With that in mind, it's worth considering if a major overhaul of our state's laws regarding distracted drivers is warranted. Most states in the country now have some kind of law prohibiting texting and driving; in fact, 42 other states now have some kind of legislation on the books aimed at reducing car accidents by punishing drivers who practice dangerous behavior behind the wheel.

However, many of them have a broad definition of what unacceptable behavior might entail. By contrast, however, the law in Pennsylvania is quite narrow. The legislation specifically prohibits texting and driving, but it leaves unspoken any prohibitions on other tasks people use their phones for, such as making calls, playing games or looking at photos. And police often don't have any idea what a given driver might be doing with his or her phone.

A stronger law might make it easier for crackdowns on distracted driving to take place. But it's uncertain if the Legislature has the appetite for changing the current law, which was introduced just three years ago. If reminding more drivers that their behavior could lead to people being injured is the outcome, though, it might be tough to leave the law as it is for too much longer.

Source: Lancaster Online, "Make Pennsylvania's texting law enforceable," April 16, 2014

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