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Distracted Driving a Rapidly Growing Problem in Pennsylvania

Distracted driving is a growing problem on roadways around the country, and Pennsylvania is considering adding tougher penalties for using handheld devices while operating a vehicle.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) says anything that causes you to either take your attention away from driving, take your eyes off of the road, or take your hands off of the wheel is a distraction. State law already prohibits any driver from using an interactive wireless communication device to send, read or write a text-based communication while their vehicle is in motion, and from wearing or using headphones or earphones while the car is in motion.

Now the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee is holding hearings for House Bill 1684, an act amending Title 75 of state statutes to prohibit calls on handheld mobile telephones when a vehicle is in motion.

PennDOT reports that there were 1,188 total deaths on Pennsylvania roads in 2016. Sixty-one of those deaths were the result of a crash where a distracted driver was a contributing factor. Information by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts shows police statewide wrote 5,054 distracted driving citations compared to 3,336 in 2016, a 52 percent increase and the highest increase year-over-year since 2013.

According to PA Courts InfoShare, distracted driving citations increased by 52 percent statewide in 2017 – and have increased 172 percent since 2013.

Top 10 counties with the most distracted driving citations:

  1. Montgomery – 620 citations – up 64 percent since 2016, up 254 percent since 2013
  2. Allegheny
  3. Philadelphia – 216 citations – unchanged since 2016, up 11 percent since 2013
  4. Chester – 339 citations – up 63 percent since 2016, up 183 percent since 2013
  5. Bucks – 294 citations – up 93 percent since 2016, up 160 percent since 2013
  6. York
  7. Delaware – 208 citations – up 64 percent since 2016, up 160 percent since 2013
  8. Cumberland
  9. Lancaster
  10. Berks

In its most recent survey of AAA members in Pennsylvania, 85 percent favor passing a state law banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving.

And distracted driving tops drivers’ list of growing dangers on the road, according to a survey released just last week by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Their annual Traffic Safety Culture Index shows that 88 percent of drivers believe distracted driving is on the rise, topping other risky behaviors like aggressive driving, drivers using drugs and drunk driving. The proportion of drivers who report talking on a cell phone regularly or fairly often when behind the wheel jumped 46 percent since 2013. Nearly half (49 percent) of drivers report recently talking on a hand-held phone while driving and nearly 35 percent have sent a text or email. Despite their behavior, nearly 58 percent of drivers say talking on a cellphone behind the wheel is a very serious threat to their personal safety, while 78 percent believe that texting is a significant danger.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

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