Any number of activities can divert a driver’s attention — changing the radio station, reaching for a coffee cup or checking one’s makeup — but state Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin County) and state Rep. Brandon Neuman (D-Washington County) held a news conference Tuesday to specifically discourage cell phone use while driving.
Texting while driving is banned in 39 states and the District of Columbia. It's a primary offense in Pennsylvania, meaning a driver can be stopped by police just for texting. Ten states have banned all handheld cell phone use while driving.
Police across the commonwealth issued 1,302 citations for texting while driving last year, and distracted driving is blamed for 57 fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2012.
Neuman acknowledged that legislating against cell phone use wouldn’t stop distracted driving. Doing that requires a societal shift.
“We can’t pass a law that is going to stop distracted driving," he said. "We need the public, we need our friends, we need our family members, we need our neighbors to be vocal. If they see distracted driving going on in the car, end it."
Joel Feldman of Philadelphia, whose 21-year-old daughter was killed by a distracted driver in 2009, spoke at the news conference. Feldman and his wife run programs in schools and communities to raise awareness about the importance of focused driving.
To allow distractions can easily lead to tragedy, Feldman said.
“Each and every one of us is just a few seconds from being someone like me, who’s lost someone we love, or someone who’s killed someone else through our distracted driving,” he said.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness month. According to the National Safety Council, roughly 1.2 million crashes per year can be attributed to cell phone use while driving.