Crashes Involving Hand-held Phones On The Rise In Pennsylvania

Research from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation shows that the number of fatalities involving Pennsylvania drivers using hands-free or hand-held phones has climbed in recent years. This data shows that drivers who used hand held devices are in more accidents than those who use hands free. This is because hands free devices give the driver more control over the wheel and place more emphasis on focusing on the road.

This numbers also places emphasis on current Pennsylvania phone laws that do not prohibit the use of handheld cell phone use behind the wheel.
Hand held crashes are much more common all over the country and place drivers is a more vulnerable, distracted state. According to local Philadelphia personal injury attorneys and data reported by PennDot, every day at least three people die from car accidents in Pennsylvania and there are approximately 15 crashes reported per hour. They explain negligence, such as driving while talking on the phone or texting is directly related to the high number of traffic accidents each year in both Pennsylvania urban and rural areas.

Counties in Pennsylvania with the most amount of hand-held crashes and fatalities include:

crash charts

A Closer Look at the Data

  • Allegheny had one hand-held related fatal accidents and 632 crashes
  • Montgomery had two hand-held related fatalities and 396 total crashes
  • Philadelphia had only one hand-held related fatality and 336 total crashes

Luckily, these types of crashes are generally “fender-bender” crashes that involve very minor injuries. Although the fatality rate for hand held crashes are low, it still doesn’t mean they’re safe. Hand-held or hands-free car accidents can be extremely dangerous, costly, and can cause major traffic delays. A closer look at the data shows an increase in  hand-held phones and hands-free phone accidents every year:

Pennsylvania Cell Phone Laws

Conventional wisdom and the Pennsylvania texting-while-driving  ban prohibits any driver from using an Interactive Wireless Communication Device to send, read or write a text message while your vehicle is in motion:

  • Defines an IWCD as a wireless phone, personal digital assistant, smartphone, portable or mobile computer or similar devices that can be used for texting, instant messaging, emailing or browsing the Internet.
  • Defines a text-based communication as a text message, instant message, email or other written communication composed or received on an IWCD.
  • Institutes a $50 fine for convictions under this section.
  • Makes clear that this law supersedes and preempts any local ordinances restricting the use of interactive wireless devices by drivers.

The state of Pennsylvania currently does not prohibit the use of hand-held phones but does prohibit IWCD’s (Interactive Wireless Communication Device). An IWCD prohibits reading, sending or surfing the web on your phone and includes wireless phones, portable or mobile tablets and computers. Having a ban on hand-held phones can positively impact collision rates according to a study conducted in 2012 by the University of California, Berkeley. The study analyzed driving accidents in California during the first four years California’s hand-held ban was in place.

Their study found:

  • Traffic deaths dropped 22%
  • Death among hands-free drivers dropped at a similar rate
  • Deaths blamed on drivers using handheld phones went down and by 47%
  • The number of physical injuries in the state declined overall and the ban ultimately resulted in less distracted drivers on the road.

Although hand held phone laws are not currently implemented in Pennsylvania, a closer examination of the facts can demonstrate that any phone activity behind the wheel is dangerous and can result in a yearly increase in accidents and fatalities.

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