Texting-while-driving law hasn't had desired impact on accidents
Police cited about 1,300 motorists statewide for sending or reading text messages on cell phones while driving in the first year of a state law banning the practice, a trade group said Monday.
But there is no evidence that the law, which took effect on March 8, 2012, is curbing distracted-driving deaths. The trade group AAA said 57 people died in crashes linked to distracted driving last year, down slightly from 59 in 2011.
“I feel the new law is deterring people from texting while they're behind the wheel, but many people are still doing it,” state police Trooper Brandi Lauria-Cox said.
Police issued 1,302 citations for texting-while-driving, according to information AAA gathered from the state's Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.
A state police spokesman in Harrisburg said troopers wrote 303 of the citations, slightly less than a quarter of the total.
The most citations — 545 — were issued in the Philadelphia metro area consisting of Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.
The seven-county Pittsburgh metro area was a distant second with 196 citations. The area includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
Locally, citations ranged from 110 in Allegheny County — third highest among counties — to just six in Armstrong County.
Leechburg police Chief Mike Diebold said his department issued one of the six in Armstrong. He called the law difficult to enforce.
“You're allowed to text if you're stopped at a traffic light or a stop sign. You're allowed to scroll through the phone to make a phone call. It's legal to dial. So how's an officersitting on the road really know what you're doing?” he said.
“If we make a traffic stop we don't have the right or the power to search that phone,” he said. “To me it's a law that has a good idea but no real thought into the enforcement aspect of it.”
Tarentum police wrote no citations, according to the department.
Harrison police Chief Mike Klein said his department has not issued many citations for texting-while-driving.
“In the totality of citations we've written, it's been very minimal,” he said. “It's not because officers aren't looking for it. You have to see it first and you have to prove it second.”
Texting-while-driving is a primary offense which means a driver can be pulled over for the violation. It carries a $50 fine.
Diebold said he's curious about how many of the citations held up in court. Drivers have a “built-in defense” since it's difficult for police to prove what they were doing, he said.
No information on the disposition of the citations was immediately available.
According to a recent AAA poll, more drivers are fearful of distracted drivers (43 percent of respondents) than drunk drivers (23 percent).
While the vast majority, 94 percent, said they consider texting-while-driving dangerous, more than a third (35 percent) admitted to reading a text or email while driving in the past 30 days. About a quarter of drivers admitted to sending a message while driving in the past month.
“It will be interesting to see if citations increase during the law's second year as motorists become more aware of it and police become more active in enforcing the primary offense,” AAA spokeswoman Jenny Robinson said.
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writer Tom Fontaine contributed to this report.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Snow sculptors have a ball with Iceburgh, Einstein
- Harrison mom, boyfriend charged in abuse of young boys
- Student suicide brings issue of bullying to fore in New Kensington-Arnold
- Drivers survive head-on crash on Route 356 in Allegheny Township
- Apollo targets owners who fail to maintain vacant properties
- Mia Z (Zanotti) of Hyde Park advances on NBC’s ‘The Voice’
- Springdale Township standoff ends peacefully
- Teenage suspect in Leechburg killing held for trial
- Leechburg man charged with molesting girls, watching child pornography
- Stray bald eagle does flyby at Hays nest
- Witness tracks down Springdale burglary suspects