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According to a recent report in US News, citations for distracted driving in Pennsylvania jumped by 52 percent in 2017, and have increased by 172 percent since 2013. The majority of the citations—7 out of 10—were issued to men, and more than a third to drivers in their 20s.

In Pennsylvania, it’s illegal to text while driving, and if you’re caught, it’s a $50 fine for a first-time offence. A law passed in 2012 allows police to pull drivers over based on suspected texting while driving alone—they don’t need another reason. Most citations are issued between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and noon.

Pennsylvania Courts Release Data on Distracted Driving Citations

PA Distracted Driving Citations

The data comes from the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, which released a report on April 2, 2018. In 2017, there were a total of 5,054 citations across 67 counties for four offenses related to distracted driving, including texting, using a hand-held cell phone, and wearing headphones while driving, which is also illegal in Pennsylvania. These numbers showed a significant increase over those reported in 2016: 3,336 total citations, which was a 52 percent increase.

Back in 2013, there were only 1,858 citations issued for distracted driving. The increase suggests not only that more drivers are committing distracted-driving offenses, but that police are cracking down more forcefully on the practice. State police spokesman Cpl. Adam Reed told the Post Gazette that part of the increase is due to “law enforcement detecting violators more efficiently,” but that another part of it might be that “people feel that continuous need to stay connected, even when they are behind the wheel….”

PA Distracted Driving Citations by County

Montgomery County was the one with the most citations issued, making up 11 percent of the total over the five-year period. Allegheny County came in second, with Philadelphia taking third place.

Distracted Driving as Bad as Drunk Driving

April is distracted driving awareness month, so it’s likely police will continue to pull drivers over for the dangerous behavior. Studies have compared distracted driving to drunk driving, with one finding that distracted driving was actually worse.

Researchers used a driving simulator to compare the performance of drivers distracted by a cell phone with drivers who were legally intoxicated with alcohol. They found that when drivers were talking on either a hand-held or hands-free cell phone, their reactions were “sluggish” and they tried to compensate by driving slower and increasing following distance.

When drivers were drunk, they showed a more aggressive driving style, following closer and applying more force when braking. When controlling for driving difficulty and time on task, though, the researchers found that the cell phone drivers actually exhibited greater impairment than the drunk drivers—ones that would be more likely to get them into accidents.

According to an AAA Foundation survey, the number of drivers admitting to using a phone behind the wheel has increased by 46 percent since 2013.

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