Whereas distracted driving legislation is supposed to prevent distracted driving, a year after Pennsylvania’s texting while driving law has been passed, research shows that a different kind of prevention is the problem. When a law is difficult for officers to enforce, they will avoid citing suspects for violations. Therefore, the wording of the law prevents potentially careless drivers from being cited for texting specifically.

Pennsylvania’s relatively new distracted driving law makes texting while driving a primary offense. Being a primary offense means that the act alone of texting behind the wheel is enough for authorities to pull a suspect over. If police have been given the go-ahead to do that, then why aren’t they doing it?

According to reports, only about 1,059 texting while driving citations have been issued since the enactment of the distracted driving law. Several members of the police force address how they agree that the amount of traffic tickets is low. It isn’t that authorities don’t see texting and driving as a threat; they see the current law as-written too difficult to enforce.

Though driving and texting is against the law, the law doesn’t open up the opportunity for police to easily investigate a driver’s phone. They rarely can pull a potential texting driver over and say, “Hand over your phone.” The suspect’s property is protected until a warrant is issued.

Officers recognize that without cell phone evidence, proving that a driver was texting isn’t easy. Pennsylvania drivers can still use their phones’ GPS systems, dial a number, etc. Those actions and other phone actions can easily look like texting when they are actually not illegal activities. That hurdle within the traffic law leads some traffic safety advocates to believe that the law should be made stricter to include a ban against any hand-on phone use while driving.

A lack of citations for texting and driving means that few drivers are getting the slap on the wrist that they might need to improve their driving. The roads can be a dangerous place, especially with such a widespread, dangerous habit of drivers taking to the roads while texting.

Source: phillyburbs, “One year later: Few citations under texting law,” George Mattar, March 10, 2013

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