Pa. texting ban marks 1st year; opinions mixed in Philly
Mar 12, 2013 (The Philadelphia Inquirer - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A year ago, a Pennsylvania law that banned texting while driving took effect.
It also nullified a Philadelphia ban on using handheld phones for any reason while driving.
Since then, Philadelphia police have issued 243 citations for texting while driving, according to data released Monday by AAA Mid-Atlantic.
During the nearly three years the city's ban was in effect, 31,000 drivers were ticketed in Philadelphia.
City Councilman Bill Green, who wrote the city's 2009 law, called the number of texting citations "extremely disappointing" and proof of how "ineffective the current ban is."
The city's ban "had a real deterrent effect," Green said. "It probably prevented some accidents."
Jenny M. Robinson, manager of public and government affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said her organization supported the state law because it made the rules for driving less confusing for motorists traveling from one jurisdiction to the next.
When Gov. Corbett signed the state bill in 2011, the then-chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Rick Geist, said that making highway laws uniform throughout the state's 67 counties was paramount.
Last year, city Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said the state law was "going to be difficult to enforce, because it's OK under the new law to dial a number."
Statewide, 1,302 texting citations were issued in the first year of the ban, including 302 in the four suburban counties, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
Robinson said the numbers were an encouraging start.
She cited federal research that found that the time it takes to read or send a text was, at 55 m.p.h., the same as it would take to drive the length of a football field blindfolded.
The state law covers texts, instant messages, e-mail, or other written communications through a phone or other portable wireless device.
Drivers face a $50 fine if convicted.
In New Jersey, the use of handheld phones while driving is banned.
Contact Robert Moran at 215-854-5983 or email@example.com, or follow @RobertMoran215 on Twitter.
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