Distracted driving has become a catch-phrase to summarize the many things that take our concentration away from the task at hand when we are behind the wheel of a vehicle. It has also become a hot topic in transportation law, as organizations lobby for legislation, and governmental agencies and legislative bodies scramble to develop a fix. The statistics on distracted driving are quite compelling: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. Texting while driving is a subset of distracted driving that gets particular attention. A Virginia Tech study found that texting while driving made a person 23 times more likely to be in an accident.
The statistics support doing something, but the devil is in the details. What constitutes a distraction? This question results in many answers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, distracted driving includes behaviors such as eating, drinking, talking to passengers, and changing the radio station. Since no legislator wants to take on banning those activities while driving, the focus has centered on the use of hand held electronic communication devices. However, banning that source of distraction comes with its own set of challenges, as demonstrated by a piece of legislation that passed the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on January 26, 2010 and is now pending in the Pennsylvania Senate.
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