Phones Down: How to Reduce Distracted Driving

May 7, 2018 / 8:00 pm

Andrea Lenk and Alicia Nicholson probably thought Feb. 6, 2016 would unfold like any other day.

But driving through Cumberland County, Pennsylvania that day, they crossed paths in the most horrific way possible: Lenk ran a stop sign and broadsided Nicholson’s car.

Nicholson, 23, died at the scene. Lenk, who was 32 at the time, was charged with homicide by vehicle and involuntary manslaughter, convicted, and sentenced to 11 months to seven years in prison.

According to police, she had been texting while driving.

Pennsylvania takes distracted driving seriously. According to the PA distracted driving law, police can fine drivers $50 simply for using a phone or any other communication device to send, read or write text messages while operating a vehicle.

And if you’re found guilty of homicide by vehicle because of recklessness behind the wheel in a fatal car crash, you could be punished by up to seven years in prison

But although 38 percent of all distracted driving fatalities do involve cellphone use, we should point out that distracted driving doesn’t always mean “using a cellphone.”

Other common distractions on the road include:

  • Adjusting the radio
  • Eating and drinking
  • Other people in the car
  • GPS devices

Fortunately, there are ways you can avoiding violating the PA distracted driving law and make sure you stay focused when behind the wheel.

1. Be careful with your GPS

Much like a cellphone, a GPS unit in your car requires visual and manual attention. If you need to use your GPS to get somewhere, set your destination before you leave rather than trying to get directions while behind the wheel.

2. Eat before you leave

Try to avoid eating or drinking. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, eating and drinking behind the wheel increases your chances of a crash by 80 percent, while 65 percent of near-miss crashes are caused by drivers who were eating or drinking.

If you need to eat something, try to stick to smaller, more bite-sized snacks than trying to eat, say, a hamburger while driving.

3. Adjust your mirrors before you leave

Do you share your car with your spouse or another driver? Make sure they haven’t adjusted the mirrors before you set out.

4. Get dressed at home

Shaving and applying make-up require concentration, and are tasks best left for your bathroom, and not your rearview mirror.

5. Stow away loose items

There are fewer things more distracting than knowing a few stray apples or soup cans from your grocery order are rolling around in your backseat. Make sure all loose items are secure – either in your trunk or glove box – before you put your car into gear.

Still, we recognize how hard it can be to resist the pull of your phone, even behind the wheel. If your will power isn’t powerful enough, there are apps that will help you to go cold turkey and avoid breaking the PA distracted driving law:

  • LifeSaver – One of the top-rated iPhone apps, LifeSaver can block calls and texts to your device when the car is in motion and is used by both parents of teenage drivers and businesses that have large fleets.
  • Drive Mode – This app automatically switches your phone to speaker mode. Not to be confused with another app called DriveMode, which offers simple voice commands and large buttons.
  • SafeDrive – This free app doesn’t prevent you from looking at your screen, but it does reward you when you don’t by giving you points that you can redeem at various retailers. If you touch your phone while driving, you lose those points.
  • TextLimit – If you get the urge to text, this app will stop you. Once your car gets above a certain speed, it blocks certain features from working.

And if you have been in an accident where distracted driving is a factor, you’ll need a good criminal defense attorney by your side.

The attorneys at Penglase & Benson have decades of experience in dealing with homicide by vehicle and DUI cases and are ready to help fight for your rights. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.