Distracted Driving Citations Double in Lancaster County

Written By Jeff Gutkowski

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Just in time for Distracted Driving Awareness Month, recently released statistics reflect a substantial increase in the number of traffic citations for distracted driving issued within Lancaster County during 2017. [1] The 110 percent increase over 2016 numbers far outpaces the 51 percent increase in distracted driving citations across the state over the same period. Does that mean that more of us in Lancaster County drive distracted or is it that our law enforcement community is more aggressive in their efforts to get people to drop their phones and pay attention?  Regardless of what we think the cause, what is clear is that Lancaster’s rate of citations per million residents only slightly exceeds, by about 13%, the rate across Pennsylvania as a whole.

Distracted Driving is a Public Health Hazard

The increased attention on distracted driving is good news for all of us. Distracted driving injures nearly 400,000 people per year.[2] Distracted driving is a public health hazard that dwarfs the problem of impaired driving if only for the sheer number of drivers and the number of ways that we allow our attentions to drift. Distracted driving isn’t just texting. Distracted driving is anything that averts attention away from the primary purpose of operating an automobile, including eating, playing with the radio, setting the GPS, talking on the phone, and of course, texting or emailing.  In fact, studies show that talking on the phone while driving creates a comparable impairment to driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 – the legal limit in Pennsylvania! What’s most surprising is that the impairment caused by talking on the phone is the same whether the driver is holding the phone to an ear or using a hands free device. And if you don’t believe it, when was the last time that you missed your exit or your turn because you were talking with someone on the phone?

In reality, though, the citation numbers only scratch the surface of the problem. Despite the increase in Lancaster County’s citation numbers, occurrences of distracted driving is grossly underreported. This is because most “distractions,” aren’t illegal and you won’t get pulled over for them.   For example, eating or changing the radio station while driving are not traffic offenses that will get you a ticket. Those types of distraction are only captured by the citation numbers when they create a different traffic offense, like running a red light or stop sign, or worse, being involved in a crash.  And if you think that distracted driving is only a teen or new driver problem, then you aren’t paying attention. So, turn off that phone and put down that sandwich and set the GPS before you pull out of the driveway.

Atlee Hall is Dedicated to Ending Distracted Driving

Here at Atlee Hall, we are partnered with EndDD.org, End Distracted Driving, a movement started by a fellow lawyer who lost his daughter as a result of someone else’s distracted driving. Our attorneys regularly present on the topic of distracted driving and how to minimize distractions while driving. While the program emphasizes promoting safe driving habits to new drivers and drivers getting ready to hit the road, the problem of distracted driving is multi-generational and does not discriminate. Many of the same impulses that distract younger drivers create the same problems for experienced drivers. A recent study from Norway, reported in Science Daily, concluded that young men, extroverted or neurotic people and people who drive more often are at increased risk of distractions.[3] If you have a group that would be interested in learning about how to stop distracted driving, call us.

[1] . https://lancasteronline.com/news/local/distracted-driving-citations-more-than-doubled-in-lancaster-county-last/article_7c5cac7c-377d-11e8-b459-eb3c56d31fc0.html

[2] https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving

[3] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171117085235.html