Does Pennsylvania's texting and driving ban go far enough?

As campaigns and studies have brought various forms of distracted driving to the attention of the public, many people in Berks County, Pennsylvania, are aware of the dangers of texting and driving. Fortunately for Pennsylvania drivers, a law banning texting while driving went into effect across the state in 2012. Unfortunately for innocent motorists, more may need to be done to remove the threat of texting drivers from the state's roads.

An overview of the state texting ban

According to CBS Philly, the law that went into effect in 2012 allows authorities to pull people over for texting and driving. Under the law, however, talking on a handheld phone or even dialing one is not an offense that drivers can be pulled over or ticketed for. This can make it difficult for law enforcement officers to prove that a driver was texting rather than using the phone in a way that is considered legal.

In a few parts of Pennsylvania, these changes may even have had a counterproductive effect. CBS Philly reports that prior to the new law, Philadelphia had a law that allowed drivers to use headsets or Bluetooth and banned them from using cell phones. Under that law, 31,000 tickets had been issued to drivers using cell phones, but when the state law became effective, it overrode the city law, limiting police from pulling over a subset of distracted drivers.

Although having a statewide ban on texting and driving on the books is a crucial step forward for Pennsylvania, some statistics suggest that the law may not yet go far enough to protect drivers.

State distracted driving statistics

An article from the University of Pittsburgh reveals troubling facts about car accidents involving texting and law enforcement efforts at enforcing the ban. Some revealing figures are:

· Since the ban became effective, 57 texting and driving fatalities have still occurred.

· About 1,300 citations were written over a period of more than a year and a half.

· In contrast, in New York, where a texting and driving crackdown is underway, more than 5,000 tickets were written in two months.

· Pennsylvania drivers who are cited receive a $50 fine but no lasting penalties like license points.

Of course, the fact that drivers receive citations and fines rather than no negative sanctions represents an improvement over a few years ago. Still, it is clear that there are ways that Pennsylvania's law on driver cell phone use could go further to deter dangerous distracted behaviors.

Unfortunately, even if legal reforms are made in the future to heighten penalties or ban the use of other distracting technology, that may not be enough to stop every driver from making reckless decisions. If you are injured in an accident with a distracted or otherwise negligent driver, make sure to speak with an attorney about your rights and the possibility of pursuing compensation.