On June 8 2011, legislation banning handheld cell phone use while driving passed the state Senate. The bill, S.B. 314, allows police to pull over young drivers for violating the law, and police can cite older drivers only if they are pulled over for another driving infraction. This “secondary offense” rule is not as strong as it should be, but the bill moves on to the Pennsylvania House, where hopefully that provision will be removed.
It is now an established fact that distracted driving is a major cause of accidents, especially among young people. Driving and texting just don’t mix, but many drivers are simply too stubborn to realize it. It only takes a second to become distracted on the road even without using a cell phone. Studies have shown, for instance, that for a driver who uses texting, his or her collision risk is 23 times greater than when not texting.
Pennsylvania has held out long enough in making use of a a cell phone while driving illegal. According to the website of the Governors Highway Safety Association, neighboring Pennsylvania states already have strict cell phone bans on the books.
New Jersey has a complete ban on using a handheld cell phone to talk and text while driving;
New York state has a ban on handheld cell phone use while driving, which is also a primary offense, and texting while driving it’s a secondary offense
Delaware has complete bans on talking and texting while driving, both being primary offenses.
This is the best chance of getting an anti texting bill signed by a Pennsylvania governor. Hopefully for all Pennsylvania drivers, the House will move an even stronger bill forward and will get it in the Governor’s hand soon.
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.