PA Texting and Driving Ban: Effective or Useless?

By Jessica Willner
SC Staff Writer

Studies show that distracted driving is now the number one cause of death in teenagers, and over one million car accidents in the past year were a result of drivers preoccupied by their cell phones.

In 2008, before some of the newest technological devices of today were available, a poll by Nationwide Insurance revealed that 81 percent of Americans had used a cell phone while driving, despite knowledge of possible dangers.

As a college student, communication with friends and family can seem all-important. However, this communication is now being put on pause for commuters as the consequences of texting while driving have become important to law enforcers in Pennsylvania.

On March 8, a texting while driving ban was put into effect. While many favor the ban and the benefits it promises, others are doubtful whether it will be effective.
Critics say that drivers will still text with the ban in effect, just as drivers still exceed the speed limit and get behind the wheel under the influence of alcohol, despite their knowledge of the unlawfulness and danger of their actions. Additionally, the ban gives police officers authority to pull drivers over for suspicion of texting, which

could affect those adjusting a radio or iPod while driving.
Officials say that although it will be tricky, officers will do their best to determine when it is appropriate to pull drivers over based on the amount of time they are seen using the device without any sign of voice communication.

Perhaps outlawing all uses of handheld devices, rather than only texting, would be more beneficial. By banning texting, drivers may feel discouraged to use their
phones for that purpose but may feel no need to regulate their phone call usage.

Only nine states, including New Jersey, ban all handheld cell phone use. However, many more localities enforce their own bans in effort to prevent distracted driving. The price for being caught texting while driving is currently only a $50 fee. Police officers are not permitted to confiscate cellular devices.

While the consequences are not very high, the ban may not be as effective as officials hoped. If the ban proves to be ineffective, time will tell whether Pennsylvania will join the other nine states that ban all handheld cell phone use or will completely remove the ban and consequently also remove all efforts to prevent the dangers of distracted driving.