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Texting behind the wheel is banned, but is the law effective?

For years now, activists and lawmakers alike have worked to pass laws to prevent distracted driving on Pennsylvania roads. Reckless drivers who text while driving have faced the risk of paying significant fines and receiving a ticket since early 2012. 

However, distracted driving is still the leading cause of traffic accidents, and it is still putting many Allentown residents at risk of a serious injury. Many people claim that is because Pennsylvania’s laws surrounding the controversial epidemic do not work. 

It is difficult to enforce the law

Passing a law is one thing. Enforcing it is something else entirely. 

In 2017, police reported that they faced various challenges while trying to enforce the law banning texting while driving. They might pull someone over, but they could not prove the driver was texting, especially since drivers could deny police the ability to search through the phone. 

Those challenges have not disappeared even today in 2019.

The law only addresses texting while driving

There is no doubt that texting behind the wheel is one of the most dangerous–if not the most dangerous–forms of distracted driving. However, there are plenty of other distractions as well, including:

  • Holding conversations with passengers
  • Eating while driving
  • Calling someone on the phone
  • Operating a GPS or even changing the music
  • Dealing with fussy children in the back seat

However, the 2012 law does not include these distractions. It specifically bans drivers from reading, composing or sending “text-based communication.” It does not even include other distractions on someone’s phone, such as scrolling through social media. That is one of the reasons that police have trouble enforcing the law.

Patrols might still be able to pull over drivers for these other distractions and ticket them for driving recklessly. But they do not face the same consequences.

Lawmakers are looking to make the law work

According to WPXI News, Pennsylvania lawmakers will soon hold a hearing to debate House Bill 37, commonly called the Hand-Held Ban. This bill includes many new elements to tackle distracted driving more effectively. It proposes:

  • Banning drivers from even holding their device behind the wheel
  • Prohibiting drivers under 18 from using their phones, even when stopped
  • Requiring drivers caught driving distracted to pay a higher fine of $200

If the bill passes, it could make it easier for police to enforce distracted driving laws. And in turn, that could provide more protection for all drivers on the road.