Distracted Driving Laws: Driver Beware!

by Judith Croteau

As the holidays approach and students prepare to travel home possibly heading for other states close by, it is important to know the laws and how they affect you. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is “any activity that diverts attention from driving.” They are not kidding when they say “any.”

The website for the NHTSA lists eating and drinking, talking to the people in your vehicle, and fiddling with your stereo, or navigation system, and of course, the use of cell phones both for texting and talking.

It might be interesting to compare the laws in a couple of states. Why? Because this is a state’s rights issue and each state’s governor and legislature determine the laws, consequently they can be different in every state.

Las Vegas here we come! The state of Nevada was one of the first to pass a cell phone law. In 2011; the Nevada Legislature made it illegal to talk or text on a handheld cell phone or similar device while driving. Like everything that people don’t really want to follow, the people of Nevada said it was just for the tourists. They were wrong.

In just a few short months, all welcome signs to the state and the major cities had additions stating the new law. On January 1, 2012, fines were imposed on any driver using any handheld device to talk, text, or read while driving. The city of Las Vegas in Clark County went further by adding “or being in the driver’s seat while the car is in gear.” The fines were $50 for the first offense and $250 for each one after the first. (They have grown every year since.) Hands-free

and Bluetooth accessories became hard to get and cost more than the national average at the time. Today, it is a rare event to see someone with a phone in their hand while driving. And, yes, they are usually lost tourists.

Home again to Pennsylvania and the RACC campus; the PennDOT site says the law prohibits any driver from using an Interactive Wireless Communication Device (IWCD) to send, read, or write a text-based communication while his or her vehicle is in motion. The fine is $50 and makes very clear that this law will supersede and preempt any local ordinances. Pennsylvania takes its State’s Rights seriously.

Notice there is nothing about phone calls? Apparently, you should just call instead of texting. Of course, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states “typing and taking your eyes off the road for just five (5) seconds at 55mph is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.” So, are you wondering, who is entering the phone number and hitting dial?

Apparently, some of Pennsylvania’s state senators are catching on as well. In 2015, the last year statistics were available, 954 distracted-driver crashes occurred in Berks County. Now, according to an article in the Reading Eagle, the two-highest ranking State Senate Transportation Committee members are proposing a bill that will make it illegal for 16- and 17-year old drivers to use cellphones for any reason while driving. The Eagle makes note of the fact that attempts to ban cellphones, while driving, have consistently failed. However, according to nation-wide accident figures, this age group has a significantly higher distracted driver accident ratio. They believe it will pass with the help of concerned parents.

Like all new things introduced into society, it will take some time to get the best laws and regulations on the books. But with the fast pace of technology, this issue may already be a moot point due to smart phones and smart vehicles allowing us hands and eyes free capability.

For more information or to read the complete Reading Eagle story check out: www.nevadadot.com




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