In the smartphone era, opportunities for distraction are virtually limitless. In 2012, Pennsylvania passed a law making it illegal to text while driving. It prohibits reading, writing or sending any type of text-based message—including email or other forms of instant message.
Notwithstanding the above safety measure, Pennsylvania saw a 52 percent increase in distracted driving citations between 2014 and 2016. Recent studies have analyzed the data and found that men—who comprised 70 percent of distracted driving citations—are far more likely to text while driving than women. Most citations were handed out between 8 a.m. and noon. Teenagers received only 6 percent of all citations.
Some critics of the distracted driving law claim the regulation isn’t strict enough. For one thing, it puts no restriction on operating a hand-held device while driving—which is illegal in many other states. In addition, they hold that the penalties are too weak to effect real behavioral change.
Getting pulled over for distracted driving is a summary offense in Pennsylvania—a low-level, non-traffic citation. The penalty for such a citation is a $50 fine. Unlike drunk driving, getting caught distracted driving does not affect the points on your driving record. In fact, for non-commercial drivers, the offense doesn’t appear on your driving record at all. Perhaps for the average adult male, a $50 fine with no long-term repercussions isn’t enough of a deterrent.
While it is difficult to know for certain what causes people to drive while distracted—or what dissuades them from doing so—distracted driving remains a growing cause of accidents on the road. Engaging in any activity that takes your attention away from the road increases your likelihood of a crash.