The state's anti-texting law, which is now in effect, is a no-brainer. Texting distracts a driver for precious seconds that could be the difference between having an accident and avoiding one.
Critics say the the law is difficult to enforce, since a driver tends to text below the sight line of a police officer or state trooper who may be looking into the window.
But it's not impossible to catch someone texting, particularly if he has his head down and his vehicle is swerving.
In any case, other states with anti-texting laws don't seem to be having a problem with enforcement.
In the first seven months of the New York's 2011 law, 7,500 citations were issued for illegal texting. California issued 2,800 citations the first year (2009), 8,000 the second year.
Pennsylvania's law allows police to pull drivers over and cite them for texting even if no other violation has occurred. Violators are fined $50, plus court costs. (No points are assessed against driver licenses.)
The ban includes instant messaging, email and other written communication.
Dialing a phone, talking on a phone and pressing the button to end a call are permitted under the law, as are on-board voice-command systems that allow drivers to hear text messages and send audio replies.
Pennsylvania law enforcement officials promise to vigorously enforce the new law.
But as Barbara Harsha, of the Governors Highway Safety Association, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, enforcement alone won't determine the success of the anti-texting law. Enforcement must be combined with education, Harsha says.
"It's not a silver bullet," she says of the law. "It's one piece of the puzzle with respect to distracted driving."
Harsha is right about that.
While texting or reading a text forces a driver to take his eyes off the road, that's not necessarily the case with cellphones.
And while there appears to be grudging acceptance of a texting-while-driving ban among drivers, the same cannot be said about cellphone use. Cellphones, after all, are essential in today's "wired" society.
Whatever the device, a little common sense goes a long way. Simply be aware of potential safety concerns and use caution, restraint and good judgment.
- Lancaster New Era