Texting and driving don’t mix – when will the Pennsylvania legislature move to ban texting while driving?
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on April 21st, 2011
Almost every day, someone in the U.S. is injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident involving a distracted driver who is texting while driving on a public road.
Earlier this week, a Minnesota woman was charged in connection with a crash last October when the minivan she was driving struck a 65-year-old man who was riding his motorcycle, according to a story in The Star Tribune in Minneapolis. The woman was allegedly texting on her cellphone when her vehicle struck the man’s motorcycle head-on, leaving him with severe injuries and more than $300,000 in medical bills so far.
The driver of the minivan allegedly told police that she was not texting or talking on her cellphone when the crash occurred, according to the Star Tribune story, but the motorcyclist told police that the woman “never looked up” as her van struck him.
The minivan driver was charged with felony criminal vehicular operation and related charges in connection with the crash, the paper reported. It took months of investigation before the charges were finally filed this week after the October incident.
It’s horrific enough that these kinds of crashes occur, but what’s even crazier is that the Pennsylvania Legislature still hasn’t passed a bill that makes it illegal to text while driving a vehicle on the Commonwealth’s roads and highways.
Across the U.S., 30 other states and the District of Columbia ban drivers from texting while they are driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.
But in Pennsylvania, no matter how dangerous and stupid it is to text and drive at the same time, it’s still not illegal.
The fight to push for a ban here, however, continues.
The AAA Mid-Atlantic auto club supports such a ban, according to a story this week on BucksLocalNews.com. The auto club is trying to get state lawmakers to support a texting ban, according to the story. One such proposal, House Bill 330, would ban text messaging by drivers of all ages and only would permit adults over 18 to use a cellphone while driving – only if the cellphone is operated hands-free. The bill, introduced earlier this year by state Rep. Josh Shapiro (D-153), also would ban drivers from using hand-held cellphones.
There have been many other efforts in the state to ban texting while driving but each time they have been defeated in the Legislature.
It’s time to turn that around and bring common sense to Pennsylvania’s driving laws.
A study last year found that drivers who texted while they were driving “likely caused more than 16,000 road fatalities between 2002 and 2007″ in the U.S., according to a story last fall in The Christian Science Monitor. The study, which was conducted by The American Journal of Public Health, is one of the first detailed analyses of the texting while driving phenomenon.
That is a lot of deaths from something so ridiculous.
Do you want your airline pilot to be texting while they’re taking off or landing?
Would you be OK with the tractor-trailer driver next to you on the interstate texting while driving his 80-ton rig down the highway in the next lane over?
Do you want to be a pedestrian in a busy Center City intersection where drivers are texting as they barrel through in their metal and plastic and glass cocoons?
Of course not.
None of us want to be the victims of such stupidity.
Yes, a ban won’t be a total solution. A fine of $50 likely won’t deter all drivers from texting, but we need to start somewhere. Why not levy higher fines that will open the eyes of drivers so they think twice before texting as they operate a motor vehicle? How about fines of $250, $500 or even $1,000? That will get the attention of dangerous motorists.
Also if the law is set up so that police officers can stop someone solely for texting and driving, rather than just for other infractions of the driving code, it can be a much better tool for officers to stop this dangerous and insidious practice on our roads.
Jon Cummings of Minneapolis knows all too well the dangers of inattentive driving.
Cummings, the founder of the victim advocacy group, Minnesotans for Safe Driving, lost his 23-year-old son, Phillip, in 1994 to a vehicle crash caused by a drunk driver. Jon Cummings then started Minnesotans for Safe Driving (MSD) in 2000 to help victims of senseless crashes caused by drunk drivers and distracted and inattentive drivers.
Driving while texting provides the same kinds of dangers and risks, Cummings said in an interview.
“It’s like what happens when people drive with their eyes closed,” he said. “People get hurt. People just don’t think it will happen to them. You wouldn’t drive around with your eyes closed, but when you’re texting you’re not looking where you are going.”
As we said, there have been more than 16,000 road fatalities in the U.S between 2002 and 2007 as a result of drivers who are texting while they operate motor vehicles, according to The American Journal of Public Health study.
That’s enough already.
It’s time for the Pennsylvania Legislature to move on this hugely important issue so that we can try to begin to reduce those numbers here.
Call your local legislators and urge them to pass a statewide ban on texting while driving.
And if you or a loved one is injured in such a crash, we here at MyPhillyLawyer are here to assist you and be your dedicated advocates in your case.
When winning matters most, call MyPhillyLawyer.