State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Texting While Driving Ban to Go in Effect at Midnight

by on March 07, 2012 12:43 PM

Katrina White was sitting in a downtown Dunkin' Donuts on Wednesday morning drinking a hot beverage. She also had her phone out and, naturally, was texting.

Smartphones and text messages are commonplace in today’s world. It was even OK to use them while driving.

Not anymore.

Pennsylvania’s new law banning texting while driving will take effect at midnight Thursday. Those caught can face a $50 fine, which does not include added court costs.

“You always see people drive with their phone over the steering wheel,” said White, 19, from Scranton, Pa. “Even though there’s so many advertisements, you see the AT&T commercials that are like, ‘Oh, don’t text and drive.’ People still do it. It’s not gonna stop them.”

Under the law signed by Gov. Tom Corbett on Nov. 9, drivers cannot send, read or write a text message while the vehicle is in motion. It covers the wireless phone, personal digital assistant, smartphone, portable or mobile computer or a similar device that can be used for texting, instant messaging, emailing or browsing the Internet.

Pennsylvania is the 35th state to ban texting while driving. Drivers in State College can still talk on a phone while driving.

The statewide texting ban comes nearly two years after Penn State enacted a policy that bans all use of cell phones and other electronic communications devices by university employees driving on university business, according to a Penn State release. The use of hands-free voice conversations is allowed under this provision.

“This is a serious problem and we are hoping that we can educate citizens on the dangers of texting while driving and prevent further accidents,” State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said in a press release.

“Our troopers will attempt to use observations of the driver while the vehicle is in motion to determine if traffic stops are warranted. An example might be the motorist continues to manipulate the device over an extended distance with no apparent voice communication.”

According to state police, there were about 14,000 accidents in Pennsylvania involving distracted drivers. Sixty-eight people died in those crashes.

“Your most important job when behind the wheel is to focus only on driving,” PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch said in the release. “Most people would never close their eyes for five seconds while driving, but that’s how long you take your eyes off the road, or even longer, every time you send or read a text message.”

Nate Mink covers Penn State football and news for He's on Twitter as @MinkNate.
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