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The trouble with texting while driving

Texting while driving in Pennsylvania is against the law. Drivers caught sending (or reading) messages while behind the wheel are subject to a $50 fine. Subsequent violations will result in higher fines. The impetus behind the law was to make roads safer, as distracted driving accidents (crashes where one or both drivers were focused on a mobile device) have become so severe that they spawned a national campaign against texting while driving.

A recent study conducted by the Mid-Atlantic branch of the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that a number of cities in the middle of Pennsylvania rank very high for the number of texting tickets issued by police. Researchers compiled data from the inception of the ban (which has only been in effect for a year) and found that the York-Hanover area ranks third in the state, with the Harrisburg-Carlisle area ranking fifth.

The exact numbers and rankings for the Philadelphia County area (which ostensibly ranks first) was unavailable, as traffic tickets in that region are kept separately. Nevertheless, researchers found that police have written more than 1,100 tickets for texting while driving since the law has been in effect. They continue to find drivers who violate the law, even though officers are prohibited from seizing drivers' phones to check on when their last message was sent (or received).

We found this story interesting because drivers polled by AAA were more worried about drivers on cell phones than drunk drivers. This implies that texting drivers are more likely to cause a serious accident than drunk drivers. Because of this notion, it is likely that a "texting" ticket will not be thrown out or reduced unless defeated on legal grounds.

Source: WITF.org, Midstate ranks high on list of texting-while-driving tickets, March 11, 2013

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