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.
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.
Pennsylvania is in the midst of an unsettling trend in recent years. PennDOT reports that about 4,000 people are hit by cars each year in our state. These pedestrian/car encounters seem to increase during the winter months, where drivers appear to be more aggressive, especially in the afternoon. Many of these accidents also appear to involve distraction, either on the part of the driver or the pedestrian. To increase visibility, it is recommended that pedestrians stay off of their phones, wear reflective clothing, walk against the flow of traffic, and cross only at designated areas. Drivers need to be alert, not distracted by mobile devices, and anticipate pedestrians on the road with them.
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.
Last month, a person was injured in a serious pedestrian accident in Allegheny County. A person was walking across the road when they were struck by a car. At the time of the news report, there was no information about the driver of the vehicle who struck the walker. When the article was released, the victim was originally thought to be dead, but the report was later corrected and reflected that the victim was alive, but suffered injuries.
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.
Did you know that there are apps you can download to help you be a safer driver? DMV.org listed some apps that you can put on your phone to keep you safer and less distracted when driving down our nation's roads. Some of the apps block text messages while you're driving, while others send out notifications when you've left and arrived at your destination safely. Others share your location and reward you for the numbers of safe miles that you've driven! Read more here to figure out which apps may be right for you and your family members.
Although all age groups are guilty of distracted driving, a new study by AAA notes that young millennials (ages 18-24) are engaging in many risky behaviors while driving. Almost 90% of drivers in this age group reported eating, video chatting, texting, and other activities while driving that can be considered "distracted driving". Although these risky behaviors did appear to decrease with age, all age groups were engaged in some degree of distracted/risky activities while driving. According to one report, distracted driving was responsible for about 11% of wrecks in PA over the last five years. In 2015, that means that about 15,000 wrecks occurred due to distracted driving.
Unfortunately, our state just received another sobering reminder of what can happen if you engage in distracted driving. According to news reports, a teenager was live-streaming herself on Facebook while driving. Right after she started streaming, she was hit by a tractor-trailer that killed both her and her passenger. The video was taken off the victim's Facebook page and will be used in the state police investigation.
As a heads up, you should know that on November 4th, Governor Wolf signed a bill known as "Daniel's Law" into effect. This bill enforces harsher penalties on those who engage in distracted driving. Within this bill, people who receive a distracted driving ticket will be punished similarly to those who engage in drunk driving. This law was proposed after a Pennsylvanian named Daniel Gallatin was killed when a distracted driver crashed into the back of his motorcycle and killed him. According to Governor Wolf, "This behavior, which has been allowed to go under-punished for far too long, has been demonstrated to be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Distracted driving has fatal, irreversible, and grave consequences and by signing this Bill I hope to make our roads and highways safer for our citizens, and everyone using them." (as quoted on PersonalInjury.com).