Understanding distracted driving

Drivers on Pennsylvania’s streets, roads and highways see evidence of distracted driving all around them on a daily basis. The main problem is people using cellphones while driving. The Morning Call, a leading Lehigh Valley news source, reports that whether used for talking or texting, cellphone usage is a leading cause of fatal accidents according to the National Safety Council, along with speeding and drunk driving.

Pennsylvania banned texting while driving in 2012. However, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation admits that conviction of violating this state law carries only a $50 fine in addition to court costs and fees. No points are assessed against the offender’s driving record if he or she is a noncommercial driver.

Increased cellphone usage

No state has yet banned the use of hands-free communication devices while driving, but many have made it illegal to talk on a hand-held device while driving unless it is for emergency purposes. Pennsylvania is not one of those states. Nevertheless, citations for illegal cellphone and/or headphone usage while driving have gone up by 52 percent in Pennsylvania since 2015. Law enforcement officials in Lehigh and Northampton counties alone issued 171 distracted driving citations in 2016, up from 110 citations in 2014.

Other types of distracted driving

Today, Pennsylvania law enforcement officials are watching drivers not only for texting while driving, but also for engaging in other kinds of distracted driving, including the following:

  • Eating, drinking or smoking while behind the wheel
  • Excessively interacting with their passengers
  • Not watching where they are driving because they appear to be searching for something inside the vehicle, reading a map or fumbling with their radio, CD player, MP3 player, etc.
  • Combing their hair or applying makeup

Pennsylvania drivers therefore would do well to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel while driving. Such safe driving practices could save their lives and those of other drivers with whom they share the road.