As a criminal defense lawyer who represents clients in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, I am on the road constantly – and some of the things you see are truly frightening.
Picture, if you will: A woman on the highway plucking her eyebrows, a man using his steering wheel as a perch for a spread-out newspaper, or a teenager downing a burger…while texting….while driving on a four-lane.
I’ve seen it all. And now we even have a whole month to bemoan such poor driving habits. Indeed: April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Didn’t think it was a big enough deal to get an entire month of awareness? Consider this: In just one year, 421,000 people were injured in a motor vehicle crash that involved a distracted driver. Or how about this: So-called visual-manual tasks such as dialing a phone or changing the radio station increases the risk of getting into a crash by about three times.
If you thought the term referred almost exclusively to texting and driving, you would be mistaken.
The term is actually defined as any activity that takes your attention away from your primary task when behind the wheel: Driving.
Yes, that could be texting. But it could also be grooming, reading a man or GPS directions, eating, fussing with the radio controls or even talking to passengers.
Take it from your friendly criminal defense lawyer: You don’t want to be cited for distracted driving in either Pennsylvania or West Virginia – trust me, I’ve been there.
My advice is, first: Be careful! A secondary piece of advice is: Know the law. In Pennsylvania, for example, there is a total ban on texting while driving – and it applies to drivers of all ages.
West Virginia laws on distracted driving are a little more stringent. Not only is there a ban on texting and driving for drivers of all ages, drivers of all ages are also prohibited to use handheld devices. What’s more, is there is a ban on the use of both handheld and hands-free devices for so-called “novice drivers” in West Virginia.
For those who are unfamiliar, a novice driver is one who has a learner’s permit or an intermediate license – regardless of age.
So be careful out there. But if you get into a jam, call me. I’d be happy to help.