Distracted driving is one of the most dangerous threats on our nation's roads. In 2009 alone, 5,474 people were killed and another 450,000 were injured at the hands of distracted drivers.
Pennsylvania is by no means immune to this problem. Pittsburgh car accident lawyers witness firsthand the tragedies caused by drivers who fail to focus on the road.
Thankfully, Pennsylvania will soon have a new tool in its arsenal to combat distracted driving - starting March 8, 2012, texting while driving will be illegal across the state. Governor Tom Corbett signed the bill into law in early November.
Texting while driving will be classified as a primary offense, meaning that police can pull over and cite any driver who is observed violating the law. It's not necessary for police to observe an additional traffic offense such as speeding or swerving. Violation of the law is punishable by a $50 fine.
Some Worry Bill Doesn't Go Far Enough
While the new law is an improvement, it's not as strict as it could have been. Earlier versions of the bill would have prohibited all cell phone use by drivers under age 18 and would have further made it illegal for any driver to talk on a cell phone without using a hands-free device.
Further, some police officials and safety advocates worry that the law will be hard to enforce. Since talking on a phone isn't prohibited, drivers may claim they were simply dialing a number and not texting. The only way for police to conclusively prove someone was texting while driving would be to subpoena the person's phone records.
Some state lawmakers have said that they will continue to push for stricter prohibitions on behind-the-wheel cell phone use.
Ban Will Make Roads Safer
Even though the bill is far from perfect, it is a step in the right direction. It allows police to stop dangerous drivers and provides a necessary reminder to Pennsylvania drivers that texting while driving is extremely dangerous.
Unfortunately, that reminder comes far too late for many Pennsylvanians, including 17 year-old Alexis Lynn Summers. She died just hours after the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the ban; she crashed her car into a tree while trying to send a text message.
No text message is important enough to risk someone's life. If you or a loved one has been injured in a distracted driving accident, you may have legal recourse. Contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help protect your rights.