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State's texting while driving law not as effective as some had hoped

Pennsylvania's ban on texting while driving, passed a little more than a year ago, has yet to make a significant impact on texting while driving in the state. While fatal auto accidents among teenage drivers-considered most at risk for the behavior-rose 19 percent nationwide in the first six months of 2012, the number declined in Pennsylvania. Still, some state lawmakers say the improvement isn't great enough, and that legislation should be passed banning the use of all handheld devices while driving.

The texting while driving law, signed in March 2012, made texting while driving a primary offense-meaning that police can stop drivers engaging in the activity even when there are no other offenses. The law carries a fine of $50 and roughly $90 in court costs. Many states have passed similar bans on texting while driving-39 of them and the District of Columbia, to be specific.

Texting while driving, of course, is a major cause of car accidents and accident-related fatalities. According to the National Safety Council, texting while driving causes 1.6 million crashes per year. And the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that texting while driving is behind 11 teen deaths every day.

According to AAA, 1,302 citations for texting while driving have been issued in Pennsylvania and 196 in the metro Pittsburgh area since the law's passage. Enforcement typically increases after the first year of such a law's passage.

What is interesting about the behavior is how influential parents can be in changing their children's behavior. Research has suggested that teens who see their parents texting while driving are more likely to engage in the behavior.

Car accidents, whether they are caused by distracted driving or other factors, can have serious repercussions for their victims. It is important for those who are harmed by another driver's negligence to understand their options for recovery.

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.com, "New Pennsylvania law not yet putting a dent in texting while driving," Jon Schmitz, April 11, 2013

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