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Pennsylvania becomes 35th state to ban texting while driving

Chambersburg mother wages war against dangerous practice

November 10, 2011|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — DRV NOW ... TXT L8R for nontexters means drive now, text later, and it's a warning that could save your life.

Pennsylvania Wednesday became the 35th state to ban texting while driving when Gov. Tom Corbett signed a bill into law prohibiting it.

The law, which goes into effect in March, will make texting a primary offense, meaning police can pull over drivers they see violating the law. It carries a potential $50 fine.

There were 13,790 crashes and 66 fatalities in Pennsylvania in 2010 caused by distracted driving, according to Corbett.

Pam Rajtik of Chambersburg is waging a war against texting and driving.

In 2009, she formed the nonprofit group Parents Against Texting Teens to stop teens from texting while operating a motor vehicle.

"Just like turning on the (car) radio, they just start texting," Rajtik said. "It's part of their normal routine."

As the mother of three sons — ages 20, 16 and 11 — Rajtik said she tries to educate them on the dangers of driving while texting.

According to her website, drivers who text are 23 times more likely to have an accident, and 57 percent of teens admit to reading or sending text messages while driving.

Sgt. Anthony Manetta, public information officer for Pennsylvania State Police, said the new law is a step in the right direction.

"What it does is provide an educational opportunity for law enforcement and for parents to provide conversations about texting and driving," he said. "It's a step in the right direction to protecting everyone."

Manetta said parents can take the lead in setting an example for their teens.

"Don't text your child when you know they're driving," he said. "Communicate with your child how dangerous it can be. Talk to your child about the dangers."

Manetta said there are a number of cellphone applications to help parents protect their teens from texting while driving, and suggested contacting a cellphone provider about specific resources that might work.

According to statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation, using a cellphone while driving, whether it's a hand-held or hands-free device, delays a driver's reaction time as much as having a blood-alcohol content at the legal limit of .08 percent.

"Glancing down for just a few seconds is life or death," Manetta said. "No message is worth losing your life or causing someone else to be killed."

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