Wolf administration reminds drivers to put down their phones and focus on the roads
Acting Pennsylvania Department of Insurance (PID) Commissioner Michael Humphreys, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Department of Transportation (PennDOT) for the Highways Administration Mike Keizer, and Pennsylvania State Police Lt. Adam Reed (PSP) urged Pennsylvanians on Thursday to turn on the setting on their cellphones that silences text and email notifications while driving, to help reduce accidents caused by distracted driving. Statistics show that road fatalities, including pedestrian fatalities, and insurance rates have steadily increased since the introduction of smart phones in the market.
“Distracted driving is a serious safety hazard and Pennsylvanians should consider distractions beyond texting and driving,” Humphreys said. “Anything, from changing radio stations to eating, that causes a driver to distract their attention and take their eyes off the road or put their hands on the wheel is a distraction.”
In Pennsylvania, the Ban on texting while driving prohibits as a primary offense any driver using an interactive wireless communication device (IWCD) from sending, reading or writing text-based communication while the vehicle is in motion.
- Defines an IWCD as a cordless telephone, personal digital assistant, smartphone, laptop or mobile computer, or similar devices that can be used for texting, instant messaging, email, or browsing the Internet.
- Defines a text-based communication as a text message, instant message, email, or other written communication composed or received on an IWCD.
- Imposes a fine of $50 for convictions under this section.
- Clearly states that this law supersedes and supersedes any local ordinances restricting the use of interactive wireless devices by drivers.
- Does not include the use of a GPS device, system or device physically or electronically integrated into the vehicle, or a communication device attached to a transit vehicle, bus or a school bus.
- Does not allow entry of an IWCD.
“We urge motorists to limit distractions while driving,” said PSP Lt. Adam Reed, director of the Communications Office. “Greater weather means more vehicles will be on the roads, so focus on getting to your destination safely.”
In a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, researchers found that drivers can experience a “hangover effect” where the mind remains distracted for up to 27 seconds after using smartphones to text. , make phone calls or update social networks.
“No distraction while driving – whether it’s texting or other operator activity – is never worth the loss of a life on the road,” said AAA’s vice president. Insurance, John Kubeika. “These senseless deaths can easily be avoided if drivers simply choose to focus on the primary task of driving while behind the wheel.
“Driver safety and the safety of our roads have always been and continue to be top priorities for AAA and its members,” Kubeika said.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2019, distracted driving crashes killed 3,142 people in the United States, an average of nine deaths per day. This number was up 10% from the previous year (2,839 deaths in 2018). The AAA Road Safety Foundation’s 2019 Road Safety Culture Index found that distracted driving remains a growing road safety problem. The survey found that most drivers (96%) think typing or reading on a mobile phone while driving is very or extremely dangerous, but 39% admit to reading and 29% admit to typing on a smartphone at least once while driving . .
In Pennsylvania, there were 10,826 crashes involving a distracted driver in 2020, resulting in 47 fatalities and 296 suspected serious injuries. Preliminary data from PennDOT shows fatalities in distracted driver crashes have increased by about 25%, while suspected serious injuries in these crashes have increased by 17%.
“Distracted driving accidents and fatalities are on the rise in Pennsylvania,” said Mike Keizer, PennDOT’s acting assistant secretary for the highway administration. “The simple choice to avoid distracted driving will help keep you, your passengers and other motorists safe.”
Commissioner Humphreys also noted that the average cost of an auto insurance policy in Pennsylvania has increased in recent years. In 2015, the combined average premium in Pennsylvania was $973.47. In 2019, that average rose to $1,102.76. The average combined premium is the sum of the average third party liability, comprehensive and collision premiums for a motor insurance policy in the Commonwealth and is published annually in the NAIC Motor Insurance Database report.
Humphreys, along with many Pennsylvania Department of Insurance staffers, turned on settings on their phones to reject texts and emails while driving. This setting alerts people trying to contact someone who is actively driving that the person they are matching with is driving and will respond to their message when they reach their destination.
“As the country begins to travel more, due to increased vaccinations and relaxed mask requirements, more and more people are ready to hit the road again for vacations, graduations and contact with family and friends from whom they have been separated due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Humphreys said. “We all need to do our part to make our roads safer. If the phone doesn’t ring while we’re driving, we won’t be tempted to take our eyes off the road.
Humphreys urges Pennsylvanians to contact their cell phone providers if they are unsure how to enable the app or setting on their smartphone to opt out of texts and emails while driving.
PennDOT’s media center features social media-sized graphics highlighting topics such as seat belts, impaired driving and distracted driving for organizations, community groups or others that share security information with their stakeholders.
For more statistical information on the Pennsylvania State Police, visit psp.pa.gov.