Only one driver has been cited in Somerset County for texting while driving in the year since the ban went into effect.
And that driver wasn't caught on any local road — he was cited on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Somerset County.
The AAA reports that statewide 1,302 citations were issued by both the state police and municipal police departments. The state police issued 303 of the citations. Philadelphia police issued 243 texting citations in the ban's first year. Pittsburgh ranks second for texting-while-driving citations with 196. Somerset Borough police Chief Randy Cox said his department has not issued any citations.
Trooper Adam Reed, spokesman for the state police department headquarters, said nothing is so important that a driver needs to take his eyes off the roadway to send a text.
"It is very dangerous to do so, and on a very busy highway like the turnpike you endanger not only yourself but everyone else sharing the road with you," he said in an email message. "An eye-opening statistic is that if you look down at your phone to send or read a text message for five seconds while traveling at 55 mph, you travel the length of a football field while essentially blind because your eyes are off the road."
Pam Kane, safety spokeswoman for District 9 of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, said texting affects most of a driver's senses. Texting affects the sense of sight (eyes off the road), the sense of touch (hands off the wheel) and the cognitive sense. Not only is a person who is texting not seeing or feeling the road but they are not thinking about what they are doing. They are concentrating on the text.
"We as humans cannot do two things at once," she said. "To be clear, as long as there have been vehicles there have been distracted drivers. Before the onset of cellphones, drivers were distracted by the radio or a CD player, or lighting a cigarette, or a cheeseburger, or the kids screaming in the back seat. Unfortunately, all of those distractions remain present and now we have added an additional task that not only takes your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road but also takes your mind off of driving."
She has suggestions for people who like to text: The best way to avoid being distracted by a phone call or text message is to turn off the phone and place it somewhere in the vehicle where it cannot be reached. She also suggests designating a texter.
"It sounds silly, but if you have a passenger and you get a phone call, have that person answer and talk or text," she said. "Drivers need to remember that the first and most important part of driving is just that — driving. Getting from point A to point B safely. It is the sole responsibility of the driver to make sure that his or her passengers are safe and that means wearing a seat belt, but it also means that the driver needs to be putting all of his or her attention into driving, without alcohol and without a cellphone."
There has been a lot of research associated with distracted driving and specifically with cellphones. Kane provided these nationwide statistics, which are through 2010.