Yesterday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed into law a ban on texting while driving in the Keystone State. That makes Pennsylvania the 35th state (plus the District of Columbia and Guam) to outlaw this dangerous activity.
If you know about only one of DOT's recent safety initiatives, chances are it’s our fight to end distracted driving. We've held two national distracted driving summits. We've banned texting behind the wheel for commercial bus and truck drivers and federal employees. We've launched a video series that goes behind the statistics to show how devastating it is to lose a loved one in a distracted driving crash. And we've partnered with some famous friends like Oprah Winfrey, Jordin Sparks, and Justin Bieber.
Pennsylvania’s 253 state legislators may not be as famous as those three, but they helped our safety fight tremendously last week by passing the new texting ban. Starting in March, texting while driving will be a primary offense carrying a $50 fine.
Protecting the lives of citizens is a basic function of government, and I thank Pennsylvania's legislators and Governor Corbett for stepping up to make the state's roads safer for residents and travelers alike.
The stakes couldn't be higher. In 2009 alone, 5,474 people were killed and nearly 450,000 more were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. As anyone who has lost a loved one in a distracted driving crash can tell you, even one fatality is too many.
In fact, just hours after the General Assembly passed the bill, 17-year-old Alexis Lynn Summers was killed in Jefferson, PA, when she crashed her car into a tree while trying to send a text message.
We know that a new law is no magic bullet. As Gov. Corbett said, “I wish I could say that with a stroke of a pen we'll be able to make driving safer, but it's not that simple.”
However, the new law does make it clear that law enforcement officials in Pennsylvania will be able to pull over drivers they see texting behind the wheel. And that's a start.