As we've reported in the past, a recent Virginia Tech study found that texting-while-driving can increase a person's chance of an accident by at least twenty-three times. Researchers say that composing a text message of just a few lines is nearly the same as closing your eyes and travelling 55 mph for five seconds.
Triple-A analysis from western Pennsylvania shows that the Pittsburgh metropolitan area ranks second behind Greater Philadelphia for texting-while-driving citations. According to the Virginia Tech researchers, there were more than thirteen hundred citations given across Pennsylvania in the law's first year of inception. The study breaks down the citations further into region and county, showing that 110 citations took place in Allegheny County and that nearly two hundred of them took place in the counties considered to be in the Greater Pittsburgh region, including Allegheny, Beaver, Fayette, Washington, Westmoreland, and Armstrong.
Texting-while-driving is now banned for drivers of all ages in forty-one states and Washington D.C. Six more state ban texting-while-driving for young drivers, and only three states–Montana, Arizona, and South Carolina–have no restrictions on talking or texting-while-driving. However, further research has shown that when states ban talking and texting-while-driving, people tend to follow the rules for a little while, but then go right back to distracted driving after a few months. Researchers say there may be several causes for this, but it happens mostly because anti-texting campaigns and advertisements start strong, as does enforcement, but then trail off.
Researchers say that if law enforcement and traffic safety officials want people to get the message, they need to strictly enforce the law. The fear of speeding comes from getting pulled over and given a fine, not the dangers of speeding. Similarly, everyone knows the dangers of texting-while-driving, but people still do it because the laws aren't enforced enough. Also, in some states, texting-while-driving is not a primary offense, meaning that unless the texter is breaking some other type of traffic law, like not using a turn signal or drifting through a stop sign, they cannot be pulled over.
In what may be the most telling of the problems surrounding the enforcement of texting-while-driving, although more than one hundred citations given as of March of 2013, only four of them were given to a driver under the age of twenty. If we want young people to heed the warnings of the dangers of distracted driving, then it's time police start cracking down on drivers of all ages who are texting.