Dis­tracted driv­ing a grow­ing prob­lem in Penn­syl­va­nia

Northern Berks Patriot Item - - LOCAL NEWS - By Mar­ian Dennis mden­nis@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @Mar­i­anDen­nis1 on Twit­ter

Dis­tracted driv­ing has be­come a more se­ri­ous con­cern for Penn­syl­va­nia law en­force­ment over the past sev­eral years as the num­ber of ci­ta­tions re­lated to the prob­lem con­tin­ues to climb.

Ci­ta­tions in­creased by 52 per­cent statewide in 2017 — and have in­creased 172 per­cent since 2013, ac­cord­ing to newly re­leased data from the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Of­fice of Penn­syl­va­nia Courts.

In Penn­syl­va­nia, all drivers are pro­hib­ited from tex­ting while driv­ing, which in­cludes send­ing, read­ing or writ­ing a text-based mes­sage or e-mail, and from wear­ing or us­ing head­phones or ear­phones while the car is in mo­tion.

Pen­nDOT re­ports that there were 1,188 to­tal deaths on Penn­syl­va­nia roads in 2016, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by AAA. Sixty-one of those deaths were the re­sult of a crash where a dis­tracted driver was a con­tribut­ing fac­tor. In­for­ma­tion by the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Of­fice of Penn­syl­va­nia Courts, the ad­min­is­tra­tive arm of the state Supreme Court, shows po­lice statewide wrote 5,054 dis­tracted driv­ing ci­ta­tions com­pared to 3,336 in 2016, a 52 per­cent in­crease and the high­est in­crease yearover-year since 2013.

Among the top 10 coun­ties in Penn­syl­va­nia with the high­est num­ber of dis­tracted driv­ing ci­ta­tions be­tween 2013 and 2017 are Mont­gomery, Ch­ester, Bucks, Delaware and Berks coun­ties. Ch­ester County was ranked fourth high­est with a to­tal of 963 given over that time pe­riod while Bucks County fol­lowed closely with 859 ci­ta­tions. Ad­di­tion­ally, Delaware County gave out 659 ci­ta­tions over the five-year pe­riod and Berks County to­taled 589.

Among the 67 coun­ties in Penn­syl­va­nia, Mont­gomery County ranked high­est in numbers of dis­tracted driv­ing ci­ta­tions from 2013 to 2017. The county to­taled 1,695 ci­ta­tions over those years with the high­est num­ber of dis­tracted driv­ing ci­ta­tions com­ing in at 620 in 2017, up 64 per­cent since 2016, and up 254 per­cent since 2013.

In ad­di­tion to the usual writ­ten ci­ta­tions drivers can ex­pect with these vi­o­la­tions, law en­force­ment in Mont­gomery County have also tried other ini­tia­tives to com­bat the prob­lem, in­clud­ing the cre­ation of the Mont­gomery County Safe Driv­ing Task Force. Ac­cord­ing to Mont­gomery County’s web­site, the force was formed in 2015 and brings to­gether agen­cies in­clud­ing DUI Ad­min­is­tra­tion, AAA, mu­nic­i­pal and state po­lice de­part­ments, Pen­nDOT, County Courts, the Health Depart­ment and the District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice to col­lab­o­ra­tively ad­dress traf­fic safety is­sues fo­cus­ing on dis­tracted driv­ing with a goal of re­duc­ing traf­fic in­juries and fa­tal­i­ties in Mont­gomery County.

Lo­cal law en­force­ment can at­test that dis­tracted driv­ing has be­come a ma­jor part of polic­ing in the county.

“As our area has grown with the pop­u­la­tion, we’ve seen an in­crease in traf­fic and in that traf­fic we see drivers that are ex­hibit­ing bad habits. Our of­fi­cers have seen drivers eat­ing and drink­ing while the ve­hi­cle is in mo­tion, they’ve seen peo­ple groom­ing, ad­just­ing ra­dios and, ob­vi­ously more re­cently, us­ing their cell phones,” said Lim­er­ick Town­ship Po­lice Chief Brian Skel­ton. “I would say it’s ev­ery week that an of­fi­cer in a marked pa­trol ve­hi­cle will ride along­side some­one com­mit­ting these vi­o­la­tions.” Skel­ton added that his depart­ment has no­ticed, specif­i­cally, an in­crease in fen­der ben­ders at slower speeds due to dis­tracted driv­ing. Skel­ton noted that as the pop­u­la­tion has in­creased, more peo­ple are stuck sit­ting at traf­fic lights giv­ing them more op­por­tu­ni­ties to pick up their phones.

“I en­cour­age peo­ple to wait un­til they reach their des­ti­na­tion to pick up their phone,” he added.

Though cell­phones have be­come an added fac­tor to the dis­tracted driv­ing is­sue, there are some phone apps that can be help­ful in pre­vent­ing dis­tracted driv­ing. These in­clude apps that read texts and emails out loud in real time like DriveSafe.ly and SafeCell, which in­ter­cepts calls and texts and auto-re­sponds with a mes­sage let­ting the caller/texter know that you’re driv­ing and can’t be reached.

For a full list of phone apps that can help with the dis­tracted driv­ing prob­lem, visit www.mont­copa. org/2471/DISTRACTEDDRIVING-PRO­GRAMS

GRAPHIC FROM THE AD­MIN­IS­TRA­TIVE OF­FICE OF PENN­SYL­VA­NIA COURTS

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