PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Robert Baranchack walks with a cane these days.
“It irritates me that I can’t do the things that I used to do.”READ MORE: Live Winter Storm Tracker: Winter Storm Blankets Pittsburgh Region With Heavy Snowfall
He’s lost feeling in his right leg from his waist to his feet after a car plowed into the back of a parked pickup truck at a terrific rate of speed.
“A big slam. Radio flew out the back window.”
Turns out Robert was rear-ended by a distracted driver — a man who later told police he was “messing with his phone” at the time.
“Taking calls and placing calls which is the equivalent of closing your eyes to everything around you and driving blind,” said William Kenny, his attorney with Berger and Green.
Distracted driving has become a national epidemic with tragic consequences. After decades of decline, automobile fatalities have risen by 10 percent in both of the past two years. Safety experts attribute these increases to drivers making phone calls, texting, using apps like Snapchat or entering destinations into a GPS instead of keeping their eyes on the road.PHOTO GALLERY: Winter Storm System Moves Into Pittsburgh Area
And it’s starting to cost all us in our auto insurance rates. They’re going up for everyone — and especially for first-time and younger drivers, who may be more inclined to use their electronics while driving.
If you’re about to put your new teenage driver on your policy prepare for sticker shock — insurance broker Marvin Spodek warns your rates might go up 10 to 20 percent or more.
“One company says they’re seeing rate increases of up to 30 to 50 percent. And they’re saying it’s because of distracted drivers.”
There are way to reduce that cost — instead of you teaching your teen to drive — you can pony up for a driver training course which will reduce your by rates as much as 10 percent. Your rates will still be high — but some parents have already paid a much higher price.
“That’s our last vacation.”
Connor Johnson was a passenger in a car with a distracted driver at the wheel — who veered off interstate I-79, hitting a light pole at full speed without braking.
Now, his mother, Michelle, has dedicated her life to raising public awareness about the dangers of distraction.MORE NEWS: SEE IT: Massive Winter Storm System Brings Snow To Pittsburgh Area
“I am going to keep on working so my son will not have died in vain. And I feel that if I can make one person from doing those same acts. Maybe help them from changing their behavior I feel that I am making a mark.”