Mon Valley police contend ban on texting while driving works
Early one morning, a car veered off Fifth Street in Charleroi and crashed head-on into a cement barrier.
As the driver walked away from the accident, Charleroi Regional Police Detective Eric Porter's first thought was that the motorists must have had too much to drink.
That was until the driver sheepishly admitted – “I was texting and took my eyes off the road.”
Such admissions, though, are rare – especially since Pennsylvania banned texting and driving.
One year after the law was enacted, few citations had been written in Washington, Westmoreland and Fayette counties.
According to AAA, Washington and Westmoreland counties ranked 11th (24 citations) and 12th (22 citations) in citations issued over the past year among the state's 67 counties. Fayette County ranked 21st with 14 citations issued.
“The numbers of texting tickets mostly followed population rankings,” said Bevi Powell, vice president for community relations for AAA East Central.
“It's a new law, and AAA will continue to monitor the data. Changing behavior involves legislation, enforcement and education.
“We anticipate a change in the driving patterns of motorists as they become more aware of the law, recognize the risk and develop safer habits.”
Southwest Regional Police Chief John Hartman suggested the law, which took effect March 8, 2012, has helped make the roadways a little safer.
“It's driving the point home that people can't drive and text,” Hartman said. “It's a worthwhile law. People have died as result of texting and driving.”
Hartman said that in addition to citations, many officers are giving motorists verbal warnings.
“We have to look at other indicators,” Hartman said. “Is there a decline in the number of accidents as a result of texting? The sole purpose of the legislation is not to write citations; it's to reduce accidents.
“There's been a big push in the media to not text and drive. I think we're getting the message out there.”
Jay Ofsanik, safety press officer for PennDOT District 12, said it is too early for the state to calculate how many accidents have been avoided with the texting ban in place.
Existing accident reports only give officers three related causes, none of which fall under actions prohibited by the law.
“The law will make a difference,” Ofsanik said. “There is a percentage of the population who will abide by the law.
“You shouldn't be distracted at all. Texting is illegal, but they should also limit use of cell phones, or wait until you pull off.
“There's always a better time to talk.”
Belle Vernon-based Magisterial District Judge Jesse Cramer said some drivers have apps on their cell phones that allow them to dictate text messages, hands free.
Cramer said he has handled just a handful of cases in the past year involving the texting ban. None resulted in accidents.
Local police say the law is difficult to enforce.
“You have to catch them in the act,” Porter said. “If there is an accident, you can check their phones to see if they were texting recently.”
Carroll Township police Chief Paul Brand said officers have to determine if a motorist was texting or placing a phone call.
“Texting is not permitted, but cell phone use is permitted,” Brand said. “Just seeing someone handling a phone is not enough to make a stop. You have to see them manipulating keys, which could be an indication they are texting.”
Brand declined to call for a ban on cell phone use, but had safety advice for motorists.
“I believe that the operator of vehicle needs to concentrate mainly on operating the vehicle,” Brand said.
“A lot of distractions can occur when you are driving. Putting any electronic devices in the driver's hands just adds to the distractions.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Coke plant workers exposed to chemical
- Colleagues, friends remember Reis
- What does your body language reveal about you?
- Shooting investigation leads to large marijuana grow in Monessen
- Despite the weather, patriotism prevailed in Monessen in 1983
- Mon Valley Chamber fundraiser to offer encore for ‘Got Talent’
- Procrastation is a major financial deterrent
- Fallowfield Township increases road crew
- Pony World Series tradition continues at Washington
- ‘Sputzy,’ Monessen High ’60 graduates to reunite
- Woman marks 70 years on bench at Rostraver church’s organ