Texting while driving ban just around the corner

On Thursday, state law bans all digital messaging
March 7, 2012 10:30 am

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If someone challenged you to drive with your eyes shut at 55 mph on the Parkway East for a distance greater than the length of a football field, you'd probably think that was crazy.

According to one study, sending a text message at that speed is nearly as dangerous. Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute determined that sending a text causes a typical driver to look away from the road for 4.6 seconds in every 6-second interval. In 4.6 seconds, a car going 55 mph travels nearly 125 yards.

Come Thursday in Pennsylvania, text messaging while driving won't just be crazy -- it will be illegal.

At 12:01 a.m., the anti-texting law signed four months ago by Gov. Tom Corbett goes into effect. It allows police to pull drivers over and cite them for texting even if no other infraction is committed.

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The fine is $50, but with court costs and other add-ons, the bill will grow to about $136, said Trooper Robin Mungo, a state police spokeswoman. No points will be assessed against licenses.

The law prohibits drivers from sending, reading or writing a text message "while the vehicle is in motion."

The law covers texting using a phone, personal digital assistant, smartphone, portable or mobile computer or similar devices. The ban includes instant messaging, email and other written communication. Dialing a phone, talking on a phone and pressing the button to end a call is still OK.

Also OK are on-board voice-command systems that allow drivers to hear text messages and send audio replies.

While state police do not plan a special enforcement program, they will cite motorists from day one if they see them texting, Trooper Mungo said. "I think the public has had enough information that this was coming. They have enough notice."

Pennsylvania is the 35th state to ban texting while driving. Its success will depend on the degree of enforcement and education, said Barbara Harsha, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association in Washington, D.C. "It's not a silver bullet. It's one piece of the puzzle with respect to distracted driving."

Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG's transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com/roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic.
First Published 2012-03-06 23:23:24

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