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November 26, 2012 | By | Posted in General News, WatchBlog

Texting ban yields 800 citations statewide during first six months

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – In the six months after Pennsylvania banned texting while driving, police in the state issued fewer than 800 citations for the new offence.

Data suggests that Pennsylvania’s texting ban is either ineffective or Pennsylvania drivers rarely text behind the wheel

Data from the Philadelphia Police and the Administration Office of Pennsylvania Courts shows the majority of the citations for taxing while driving were issued in the Philadelphia area.  The city of Philadelphia led the way with 156 citations in the first six months while the suburban counties around the state’s largest city accounted for another 200 citations.

Meanwhile, police in the Pittsburgh area cited only 111 drivers over the first six months and the Harrisburg metro area rang up only 31 citations during the same period – which is an average of slightly more than one ticket per week in that part of the state.

Pennsylvania’s texting ban took effect on March 8 of this year and is a primary offense with a $50 fine.

The citation data, compiled by AAA Mid-Atlantic, seems to reinforce the argument that texting bans are practically impossible to enforce and generally ineffective.  Drivers can avoid the fine by claiming they were searching their phone for a number to call, dialing a number or using their phone as a GPS device – all of which are still legal.

Adam Reed, spokesman for the Pennsylvania State Police, said it takes time for law enforcement and the public to get used to a new law – particularly one worded as specifically as the texting ban.

The law is better than the way it was before, which was absolutely nothing out there, nothing on the books as far as prohibiting texting,” Reed said.

Jenny Robinson, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, which supports the texting ban, said the key to keeping roads safer is education drivers about the dangers of texting while behind the wheel.

“The goal is to change behavior and get people to stop texting behind the wheel, not just wait until they do it and then see them get a ticket,” she said.

TOP PENNSYLVANIA METRO AREAS
Ranked by Number of Texting While Driving Citations
(first six months of law effective, 3-8-12 through 9-8-12)
Metro Area
Counties Included
Population
Total texting citations in 1st 6 months
1
Philadelphia Metro
Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia counties
4,030,926
355
2
Pittsburgh Metro
Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington, Westmoreland counties
2,359,746
111
3
Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton Metro
Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton counties
824,916
38
4
York-Hanover Metro
York County
436,770
34
5
Scranton-Wilkes-Barre Metro
Lackawanna, Luzerne, Wyoming
563,223
34
6
Harrisburg-Carlisle Metro
Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry counties
552, 911
31
SOURCE: AAA Mid-Atlantic, using data from Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts; Philadelphia Police; U.S. Census Bureau

Contact Boehm at Eric@PAIndependent.com and follow @PAIndependent on Twitter for more.

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Eric Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or at (717) 350-0963.

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