Distracted Driving on the Rise in Delaware

Technology can be a wonderful thing. From sending documents back and forth in real time to video chatting with family members from around the world, it has allowed us to multi-task, and in some ways making us a more productive and fast-paced society.

However, with that instant gratification that technology has given us, we have become accustomed to doing what we want when we want – even if we are behind the wheel of a car.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2015 there were 3,450 fatalities in distracted driving related crashes. Out of the number of individuals who were killed in all highway deaths, these accounted for 10 percent.

Delaware Distracted Driving Increases
According to DMV.com, in 2016, distracted driving in Delaware was mostly a result of inattentive drivers. Out of the 6,095 such car accidents that occurred that year, 4,735 resulted in property damage, 1,353 caused personal injuries, while seven of these instances even proved fatal.

Just the prior year saw considerably less distracted driving crashes. The numbers for 2015 included 5,511 crashes, 4,267 cases of property damage, 1,239 personal injuries, and five fatalities.

Efforts to Combat Accidents
In an effort to combat this epidemic, in 2011 Delaware enacted its first hands-free cell phone law. This meant that drivers were prohibited from using any type of handheld electronic device, such as portable computers, tablets, pagers, or laptops while driving.

The State of Delaware was the eighth in the nation to prohibit handheld wireless communication devices while driving. It was also the thirtieth state to ban texting while driving.

However, with the exception of commercial drivers and teens aged 16 – 18 years, drivers are still permitted to use hands-free communications such as Bluetooth.

It is important to note that cell phones are not the only cause of distracted driving. It can also include everything from looking at a GPS monitor, eating and drinking, applying makeup, or even interacting with passengers.

Penalties
Despite the increase in driver education and a swell of driving laws, the number of distracted drivers has only continued to rise. Most penalties for distracted driving in Delaware include civil fees, and potential suspension of the CDL of commercial drivers.

For operators of passenger vehicles, a first offense for distracted driving is usually $100, with a fine of $200 to $300 for each subsequent offense within a period of two years.

Combating Distracted Driving
Early in 2018, State police and the Delaware Office of Highway Safety (DOHS) partnered in an effort to ticket drivers who were on their phone. The DOHS has also provided funding to 14 different police departments.

There are things that drivers can do to be safer:

Download a text-blocking or autoreply smartphone app.
Store your cell phone in the glove box.
Turn all phones and other hand-held electronic devices on silent.

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Robert E. McCann

Licensed since 1992

Member at firm McCann & Wall LLC Law Offices

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