Local/State

Feds crack down on distracted drivers

Thursday, June 07, 2012

From talking on the phone to texting behind the wheel, sometimes the biggest dangers on the road are inside the car.

Thursday the federal government announced plans to crack down on distracted driving.

Even though texting while driving is illegal in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, if you spend any time on the roads, you will still see many drivers texting.

But now, if some state and federal officials have their way, the penalties for breaking the texting bans could be getting a lot stiffer.

Bicycle messenger Erik Puro spends 8 hours a day on city streets; that makes him somewhat of an expert on distracted driving.

"I see people shaving, reading the newspaper, reading books while driving, texting. It's amazing," Erik said.

According to AAA, more than 3,000 people a year are killed in accidents linked to distracted driving.

That's one reason why Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a $900,000 grant to Delaware on Thursday.

The money is to be used both for programs to inform drivers about the dangers of texting and driving, and also for police to step up enforcement.

Studies show that even through drivers know texting is bad, they still do it.

"We've found that 95% of drivers say 'Oh yes, it's terrible to text and drive and distracted driving is bad,' but 35% of them admit they do it," said Jenny Robinson of AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The Feds aren't the only ones stepping up pressure on this issue.

Pennsylvania enacted a texting and driving ban in March; one of 35 states to do so. And in New Jersey, the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee approved a bill Thursday that would increase fines from $100 up to $200 for a first offense, $400 for a second offense and $600 for a third offense.

Aline Goodman is all in favor of hitting texting drivers in their pocketbooks.

"If they get caught texting, they should get a fine right then and there, and then if you don't pay it, it keeps going up. If you get more than three, you should go to jail," said Aline.

In Delaware, a first offense will cost you $106. After that, the fine goes up to $300.

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Tags:
texting, driving, philadelphia, pennsylvania, new jersey, delaware, local/state, amy buckman
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