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The case for banning handheld cell phone use while driving

Written by Jon Schmitz on .

The publication The Atlantic Cities brings us word of new research into whether banning texting while driving (as Pennsylvania did just over a year ago) leads to a reduction in crashes.

Two economists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee did a nationwide study of texting laws and fatalities and concluded that texting bans work best when they are accompanied by an overall ban on handheld phone use, making enforcement much easier for police. Also, they found that making texting a “secondary” offense (the cops can’t pull you over unless they see you commit some other violation) is a waste of time.

An excerpt from the article:

The first is that making texting a “secondary” violation is about as good as not banning it at all. The next is that even states that make texting a “primary” offense must maintain heightened enforcement to sustain the benefits of the law. And the third is that the easiest way to facilitate strong enforcement is to ban handheld mobile usage in general. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, only 9 states (including D.C.)* currently meet all these criteria. As more good research like this study makes its way into the public, one would hope to see that number climb.

Full article here.

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Meanwhile, AAA gives travelers some useful information about what the driving while phoning laws are in neighboring states. In Pennsylvania, texting while driving is a primary offense with a $50 fine (plus about $90 in court costs). Handheld cell phone use is legal. What our neighbors do:

Kentucky -  It is illegal to send or read text messages while driving. The fine is $25 for first-time offenders, and $50 for additional violations.
New York  - Handheld cell phone usage and texting are both banned if person is driving. The fine for either violation is $150.
Ohio – Texting while driving is a secondary offense in Ohio, meaning drivers will only be stopped if cited for another violation, such as speeding or running a red light. The fine for texting while driving can be up to $150. In addition, several Ohio towns and cities ban handheld cell phone use while driving. These fines vary by town.
West Virginia – Both texting and handheld cell phone use are banned while driving. While texting is a primary offense, meaning drivers can be pulled over for it, handheld cell phone use is a secondary offense until July, when it too becomes a primary offense. The fine for either violation is $100 for first offense, $200 for second, and $300 for third and each additional offense.

And USA Today weighs in with this: adults are worse than teenagers when it comes to texting while driving. Full article here.

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roadworkaheadRepair of a retaining wall on the ramp from the Liberty Bridge to northbound Interstate 579-Crosstown Boulevard will cause closures of the ramp at 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays starting next week and into early May. The detour is to continue inbound to a right on Forbes Avenue, left at Chatham Square, continue on Washington Place and turn right at Bigelow Boulevard to reach the ramp back to northbound I-579.

Construction will continue on the Veterans Bridge and Crosstown Boulevard through early summer. Lane closures will occur from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Mondays through Fridays between the Liberty Bridge and Parkway North. Additional ramp closures are possible.

The right lane on the outbound Parkway East will be closed approaching the Forbes Avenue-Oakland exit from 10 p.m. today to about 2 a.m. Friday for crash barrier repairs.

We got a clarification of upcoming Interstate 79 restrictions in Washington County. There will be southbound single-lane traffic starting at 8 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays from Exit 45 at Canonsburg to Exit 41 at Racetrack Road during resurfacing. The first day of restrictions is Monday. The off- and on-ramp at Exit 43 at Houston will be closed and detoured intermittently during the project, which continues into early August.

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