I know that there’s a lot being written on this subject. I write as much as I can on the texting issue because it’s important to me. Here’s recent information. In the Lehigh County case of Commonwealth v. Steiner,(Lehigh Co. May 4, 2011), Judge James T. Anthony ruled that an Allentown City ordinance prohibiting the use of a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle was invalid because the Pennsylvania Legislature intended that motor vehicle regulations be uniform throughout the state and this ordinance would subject motorists to unreasonable inconsistencies contrary to the purpose of the Vehicle Code. Defendant’s motion to dismiss granted.
In this criminal matter, the defendant was charged with violating the ordinance for using a mobile phone while operating his vehicle. He was found guilty and appealed. Following the summary. He then of course through counsel, filed a motion to dismiss arguing that the ordinance was preempted by the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code.
After reviewing the law of preemption, Judge Anthony ruled that the Pennsylvania Legislature intended that motor vehicle regulation to be uniform throughout the state. For the ordinance at issue to be valid, there must be specific authorization in the Vehicle Code permitting the City of Allentown to enact such an ordinance.
It sounds like the lawyer in this case for the defendant did a good job in arguing his position. Unfortunately, the Pennsylvania Legislature is going to have to past uniform regulation prohibiting texting and driving. Otherwise there will be no real teeth to these ordinances throughout the state.
I have two teenagers who are driving. My 16 year old daughter has her permit. My son is 19 and has been driving for a few years.
My method of initiating them to being behind the wheel was to take them to an empty parking lot on a Sunday morning and have them drive in reverse, only in reverse, for the first few days. They hated that. But when they got to go forward they realized there was method to my madness. If you have never been in the passenger seat with a teen who just got their driving permit I can tell you it is a terrifying experience. My daughter’s driving instructor told me it’s much easier for him, not just because he has nerves of steel, but because he has a brake in the passenger seat. He has installed a few of those into some of the parents’ cars of the kids that he’s teaching. He offered to put one in my Honda CRV, but I declined.
Teens know about the dangers of drinking and driving. They may not appreciate the dangers because they are teens, but they are told.
However,an equal if not greater danger to teens as drivers and as passengers in a car driven by another teen is cell phones. I insist that my daughter turn her phone off and put it in the trunk when she drives. I don’t make or receive calls when I’m driving or when I’m a passenger. I just turn the phone off. It’s simply too tempting to answer it. I hope my kids model my behavior.
In early April a twenty-two-year-old Pennsylvania driver pleaded no contest to homicide by vehicle and careless driving resulting in an unintentional death. He was sentenced to 10 to 23 months in York County Prison. I sent that story to my kids. I can only hope it sunk in.
On Tuesday, Nov. 3, Pennsylvania state senate passed a bill prohibiting citizens from texting while driving. The bill permits police officers to pull over drivers who appear to be texting at the wheel, with guilty parties standing to receive fines as high as $50 per offense. The bill will take effect after it is signed by Gov. Tom Corbett, who Metro Philadelphia quotes with enthusiastically saying, “Send me that bill.”
Distracted driving is a real danger. The official US government website for distracted driving,Distraction.gov, says, nationwide, 5,474 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers in 2009. The same year, the website reports, about 300,000 injury crashes were reported to have involved distracted drivers. And, even though the term “distracted driving” can refer to more than just texting, Distraction.gov says “texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distraction.”
The three types of distraction outlined by Distraction.gov are:
Visual—taking your eyes off the road
Manual—taking your hands off the wheel
Cognitive—taking your mind off what you are doing
To see texting while driving as a combination of visual, manual, and cognitive distraction gives credence to a University of Utah study which concluded that cell phone use “delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.” If texting at the wheel is equatable to driving while under the influence, the problem is indeed urgent and one which requires attention.
This problem calls for individual action. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported on skepticism among police officers who see the Pennsylvania senate’s new bill as unenforceable, and while this might be true, the passing of the bill could help to initiate change. The same story cites AAA surveys that “show that 95 percent of drivers see texting as a serious threat, though 30 percent admit to doing it themselves…” Hopefully the state ordinance will inspire a change of heart in those drivers who text despite the danger.
For more information on the dangers of distracted driving, and for suggestions on how to remedy the problem, see “How to Prevent Your Kids from Texting While Driving,” “The Epidemic of Texting While Driving,” and other articles on the Kreithen, Baron & Carpey website.