Texting while behind the wheel is illegal in Pennsylvania and many other states, and most people will even acknowledge that it is unsafe. But the sad truth of the matter is that so many motorists ignore the law that sending and receiving text messages while driving has almost become the normal practice, causing many car accidents.

Statistical estimates indicate that approximately 16,000 deaths were caused by texting while driving in the seven-year period ending in the last month of 2007. Many states have enacted strict laws to outlaw the practice in response. Pennsylvania’s ban on texting while driving took effect in March of this year. Some have criticized the new law as not doing enough, however. It does not bar motorists from making other uses of handheld cellphones while driving, such as to make or receive calls, which can also be distracting.

Further, from an enforcement standpoint, how is a police officer seeking to enforce the new texting ban supposed to know if a driver just entered a phone number to make a call, as opposed to entering a text message to send? Additionally, the state’s limited ban on texting behind the wheel now pre-empts more comprehensive bans on handheld devices, such as the one in Philadelphia, which resulted in 31,000 drivers receiving tickets for violations over a three-year period.

Even more disappointing to many safety advocates were the results of a recent survey comparing texting-while-driving rates among states. The survey found only tiny differences in the percentage of motorists texting while driving between states with laws prohibiting the practice (12 percent) and those with no such laws (14 percent). Young motorists are even more likely to text while driving, with 48 percent of them doing so in states without legal bans and 45 percent acknowledging doing so with a legal ban in place. It may, therefore, be just as important to educate drivers about the risks of texting while driving.

Source: Philly.com, “Texting while driving is illegal and unsafe. Why is it the norm?” Jonathan Purtle, July 19, 2012

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