Don’t Bend the Law Like Beckham: The Dangers of Distracted Driving
Soccer star David Beckham received a six-month driving suspension last week for operating “a handheld device at knee level” while driving his Bentley in London’s West End, according to news reports. Beckham, who had already accrued multiple speeding violations, was ordered to pay 925 pounds ($1,205) in fines and prosecution costs.
Beckham’s legal problems began when a member of the public spotted his dangerous conduct and took a photo that showed him holding his mobile phone in an upright position while looking at his lap. The traffic at the time was described as slow-moving.
Beckham’s lawyer said that Beckham had “no recollection of the day in question or this particular incident.” Since he could not remember, Beckham pled guilty, the lawyer said.
Beckham, who is reportedly a joint billionaire with his wife Victoria Beckham (who rose to fame as a singer in the all-female pop group Spice Girls) probably won’t experience any financial hardship from the fine. It is reported, though, that he enjoys driving his children to and from school and that he will miss that.
Beckham joins a list of other celebrities who have been caught misusing their phones while driving:
- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was photographed texting while driving in 2014. The photo gained much publicity, as it was taken using a Twitter co-founder’s newly launched App called “Jelly.”
- Reality TV star Kim Kardashian, who is reported to have 59.3 million Twitter followers, has been spotted on multiple occasions using her phone while driving. Her half-sister, reality TV star Kylie Jenner, has a reported history of using the mobile app Snapchat while driving.
- California’s former First Lady Maria Shriver was photographed in 2009 talking on her cell phone while driving. Her former husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, whom she was divorcing at the time, had signed a law banning mobile phones behind the wheel.
Lest anyone think distracted driving is a problem limited to celebrities and our friends across the pond, here is some information closer to home.
In 2017, there were 15,614 crashes in Pennsylvania caused by distracted driving, according to PennDOT’s “2017 Pennsylvania Crash Facts & Statistics” report. Fifty-eight of them were fatal crashes.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3,166 people were killed by distracted driving in 2017.
In Pennsylvania, it is against the law to send, read, or write a text-based communication while operating a motor vehicle. It is also illegal to use headphones while driving. Drivers who are caught are subject to a $50 fine. Pennsylvania has yet to enact a law banning talking on a hand-held phone while driving. Such laws exist in neighboring states including New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and New York.
Distracted drivers in Pennsylvania (and elsewhere) may face criminal charges (such as vehicular homicide) and be held civilly liable in a lawsuit for injuries if they cause an accident.
Distracted driving data released by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts in early April shows that between 2014 and 2018 police issued a statewide total of 18,477 distracted driving citations. Some 36 percent of the people cited were in their 20s, and 70 percent were male. The greatest number of citations were given between 8 a.m. and noon. The most citations were given during May. Some 51 percent of the citations were issued by local police, while the remaining 49 percent were issued by state police.
The top 10 counties with the most distracted driving citations are:
- Montgomery ― 11 percent
- Allegheny ― 8 percent
- Chester ― 6 percent
- Philadelphia ― 6 percent
- Bucks ― 5 percent
- York ― 5 percent
- Delaware ― 4 percent
- Cumberland ― 4 percent
- Lancaster ― 4 percent
- Berks ― 4 percent
The lesson here is don’t bend the law like Beckham. There is nothing on your phone that is worth risking death or serious injury to yourself or someone else.
If you have been injured in an automobile accident, whether by a distracted driver or under other circumstances, you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. We recommend that you consult with an attorney immediately to ensure that your legal rights are protected.