Chatting on a cell phone or texting while driving on our roads and highways is causing accidents in ever-increasing numbers. In Pennsylvania, there are over 6,000 distracted driver accidents each year involving drivers using a handheld cell phone.
In New Jersey, the numbers are even higher. According to the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety, distracted driving contributed to more than 20,000 car accidents in 2007. More than 1,500 distracted driver accidents involved handheld cell phones and 1,421 involved a hands-free cell phone.
Distracted Driving Laws
No statewide Pennsylvania law has been passed yet. If the current bill in the House Transportation Committee becomes law, drivers must pay a $50 fine for texting while driving. Fines would double in a school or road construction zone.
In the city of Philadelphia, the fine for talking on a handheld cell phone while driving, bicycling or using a skateboard is $75 for the first violation. No moving violation points are assessed.
In the State of New Jersey it is illegal to talk on a handheld cell phone or text while driving. No moving violations points are issued, but drivers are fined $100.
New Federal Laws for Texting Effective January 26, 2010
The United States government has prohibited the operation of hand-held texting devices by drives of commercial trucks and buses. The ban is effective immediately and violators may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in a statement, "We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe." He added, "This is an important safety step, and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving."
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has found that drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every six seconds while texting. Researchers also say drivers who text are at least 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers.