Pennsylvania apparently had a decrease in the number of violations for distracted driving, as data shows a 5% reduction across the state between 2017 and 2018. In the last five year period, the trend still remains at an overall increase of 118%. Across the country, the massive adoption of smartphone devices has been creating dangerous incidents of drivers who are taking their eyes off of the road. The state can issue a citation for texting or wearing headphones while operating a vehicle.
Pennsylvania Distracted Driving Data
- Currently, a “texting while driving” ticket imposes a $50 penalty in addition to applicable court costs
- The total number of citations for distracted driving issued statewide in 2018 was 4,793
- The Pennsylvania State Police have issued 49% of these citations—with the remainder issued by local police agencies
- About 70% of violators are male
- 36% of those cited were in their 20s and 28% were in their 30s
- Approximately 6% of the total violations statewide occurred in Philadelphia County
A Nationwide Problem
There are currently over 220 million subscribers to wireless phone services in the U.S. It is estimated that nearly 80% use their devices while driving to some extent. At least 18 states now prohibit all phone usage while driving and other states have laws that pertain specifically to teen drivers. During the day, it is estimated that as many as 800,000 individuals may be using a wireless device while driving at the same time.
In 2015, distracted driving is estimated to have caused over 3,400 roadway fatalities and 391,000 related injuries. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has launched a campaign to heighten awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. They are employing various social media platforms in these efforts.
Often Difficult to Prove
Members of law enforcement explain that wireless usage while driving can be difficult to prove. Pennsylvania's law specifically prohibits text-messaging related activity, which is hard to determine. Some states have had success by requiring drivers to use “hands-free” devices when talking on their phone. Many mobile carriers and auto insurance companies have been increasing awareness regarding the dangers of distracted driving and have created various “do not disturb” apps.
A Secondary Offense
Data suggests that localities within areas that prohibited text-messaging related activity experienced a decrease in overall fatal accidents. In Pennsylvania, members of law enforcement can stop and issue a ticket to drivers exclusively for distracted driving. In some other states, the offense is classified as “secondary.” For example, an officer in Florida may only issue a distracted driving citation if they witness a standard traffic offense, such as speeding first.
Grant Funding Opportunity
Federal agencies associated with transportation have issued the FAST Act. This is an incentive program that states who pass distracted laws may qualify for. One way to become eligible is to implement a ban on text messaging that imposes a fine for first-time offenders. These provisions state that the law may not allow for texting while the vehicle is stopped at a traffic signal. States are encouraged to prohibit all minors from using mobile devices at all times while driving. The topic of distracted driving must also be included in the driver's license examination process.