During the spring and summer, many families go out of state to visit relatives and/or enjoy their summer vacations. For a lot of Americans, this makes making a multi-state road trip. While you're out driving on the states' highways, it is important to understand that driving actions you take in another state can follow you back to Pennsylvania. In case you were unaware, Pennsylvania participates in something known as the Driver License Compact (DLC). The DLC is an organization made up of 46 out of our 50 states who work together to create a single system for driving records, driver licenses (so you can only hold a license in one state), and report all traffic convictions/license suspensions/license revocations so other states are aware of a driver's license status.
Over the summer, a Pennsylvania family gave insight into the dangers of distracted driving the face of new state legislation. According to local news sources, the family lost their eight-year-old son when he was hit by a distracted driver while he was walking across a crosswalk. They were interviewed about the dangers of distracted driving and how it impacted their family. At the time of the news article, PA lawmakers were working to keep our citizens safe by proposing a hands-free cell phone bill that would only allow cell phone use if it utilizes hands-free technology. Cell phone GPS use would also be allowed, as long as the cell phone was in a docking station.
How awake are you while you drive? In the age of burning the candle at both ends, many Americans are chronically sleep deprived. Unfortunately, as a result, being drowsy or falling asleep at the wheel is a huge problem for American drivers. This is such a big problem that one website, DrowsyDriving.org, is completely devoted to raising awareness of driving while fatigued. This website is run by the National Sleep Foundationm, which reflects how much of a widespread problem this phenomenon is.
Unfortunately, PA seems relative lenient on distracted driving use compared to other states. This is a dangerous and significant problem when it comes to the safety of drivers on our state's roads. Interestingly enough, PA does not currently have a law that prohibits drivers from using their cell phones while they're driving. Instead, PA only has a texting law that prohibits sending and receiving text messages. This means that drivers can still use social media, take pictures, or use other phone features while driving. Additionally, the fines imposed if you are caught texting while driving are minimal compared to other states. Across the state, over 18,000 citations have been issued over the past five years, and the total amount issued has increased by almost 120%. Almost all people cited were males, and most were in their 20s.
Although we may think more commonly about car and truck accidents, bus accidents are not uncommon, either. Recently, Greyhound was sued for injuries its passengers sustained while riding one of their buses from New York City to Cleveland. According to news reports, the bus crashed after the driver fell asleep at the wheel. One of the 43 passengers died and many sustained severe injuries. One passenger recently received a payment of $27M from the bus company due to the severity of his injuries, which included an amputation of one of his legs and over 30 surgeries related to other injuries.
An incident of texting while driving recently took the life of a pedestrian in PA. According to news sources, a college student was texting while driving her car in Allentown. She ran a red light and hit a minivan, which caused her car to spin into a nearby pedestrian. That pedestrian was thrown over 20 feet in the air and died soon after. The driver's cell phone data reflected that she was arguing with someone else over text at the time of the accident. Additionally, videos from the crash scene show that the driver's car did not slow down as it approached the red light at the intersection, although other cars responded appropriately according to the traffic lights.
In recent news, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that PennDOT, our state's transportation department, can be held liable for vehicular injuries caused by dangerous guardrails on our state's highways. Usually, the state cannot be sued for damages due to negligence under an act called the Sovereign Immunity Act; however, it was ruled that exemptions can be made for state guardrails that were installed negligently and whose design creates a dangerous situation. This new ruling came after a case in which a person was in a car accident during winter. The snowy and icy conditions caused the driver to spin out and hit a guardrail. The guardrail ended up spearing the car and also caused injuries to the driver. Although this exemption cannot be assumed in all car accident cases on our highways, it is an important ruling to keep in mind.
Earlier this month, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced they they are planning to survey tractor-trailer drivers to see how long their commute is to their trucking jobs, especially if their commute is greater than 2.5 hours. This survey is part of a larger study that is examining commuting time as it relates to driver fatigue and safety. FMCSA plans to get feedback not only on commuting time, but also work history, schedules, annual miles they drive, and their break and rest periods.
In the Pittsburgh area this week, a section of I-70 was closed due to a large tractor-trailer accident. According to accident reports, the truck went off the road and got stuck between the guard rail and the highway. The driver was trapped inside the car and received treatment at an area hospital for his injuries. At the time of the article, there was no mention of other cars being involved in the accident.
Many of us know that summer is a big season for teen driving accidents, since students are out of school and on the roads more frequently. However, did you know what the major causes of teen driving accidents in the summer are? AAA has compiled some data to take a look at this phenomenon, what the causes of accidents are, and how we can help prevent them. According to their study, the top causes for teen driving accidents in the summer are 1) talking or getting something for someone else in the vehicle, 2) using their cell phones to talk, text, and/or use an app, and 3) attending/looking for something else inside of the vehicle.