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Distractions and hands-free driving

Although Pennsylvania roads may be safer as motorists refrain from activities such as texting or using hand-held smartphones while driving, distractions can occur in spite of these efforts. Statistics suggest that a majority of motorists believe that today's engineering with technology devices incorporated into the dash implies that these tools are safe. However, the use of these tools is more a matter of convenience than safety because the engagement of the brain is still distracting.

Many states have enacted laws prohibiting talking on a hand-held phone. However, the hands-free use of a smartphone still requires drivers to multitask as their attention is divided between the conversation and the road conditions. States have not yet tackled this facet of the distracted driving problem, but some companies have begun to ban all cellphone communication on the road for employees during work hours.

Distractions involving devices can include smartphone calls, text messaging while driving, computer or tablet use and GPS interaction. However, old-fashioned devices like radios can also affect a driver's attention on the road as an individual attempts to find or change stations or eject a CD. Conversation in the car with a passenger can be just as distracting as a cellphone conversation, especially if the driver is talking to a passenger in the back seat. While a distraction that leads to a car crash is typically the responsibility of the driver, there can be situations in which another passenger could interfere with a driver's concentration either accidentally or purposefully.

In some cases, distractions are a matter of choice, which can result in liability on the part of the distracted party in case of an accident. An injured party might have grounds for personal injury litigation if a serious accident resulted from issues such as text messaging or cellphone use, even if these activities were conducted in a hands-free manner.

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Gregory R. Gifford
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Rubin, Glickman, Steinberg and Gifford has been a member of the local Penn Suburban Chamber of Commerce (previously known as North Penn Suburban Chamber of Commerce) for more than 25 years.

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