Teens, Texting and Distracted Driving

Date: May 13, 2014

According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, the chances of a car crash increase by 23% when the driver texts while driving, and the National Safety Council reports that 1.5 million annual vehicular accidents are the result of texting while behind the wheel. This increased change of personal injury as the result of distracted driving is a major issue across American roads.

In March of 2012, Pennsylvania instituted a texting while driving ban. It prohibits a driver from using an Interactive Wireless Communications Device to send, write or read a text-based communication while the driver’s vehicle is in motion. Because the law makes this a primary offense, a law officer can pull you over solely for texting. This offense is punishable by a $50 fine and close to $90 in court costs. The law officer may not seize your IWCD. A conviction carries no points against your Pennsylvania state license, nor does it go on the record of any non-commercial driver.

This law does not ban the use of any GPS device, or system that is electronically or physically integrated into a private vehicle, or a communications device that is attached to a school bus, public bus, or mass transit vehicle.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 71% of teens and young people admit to writing and sending text messages while driving, and 78% have read texts while operating a vehicle. Over 3,300 people were killed in car crashes caused by distracted driving in 2012. Though the Pennsylvania texting ban affects all drivers, due to the extensive use of cell phones and texting by teenagers, this group has been the target of an aggressive campaign to combat this practice and other forms of distracted driving by teenage drivers.


Pennsylvania’s Students Against Destructive Decisions is a program geared towards informing, educating and influencing teens to make smart choices. Though its original focus was against drunk driving, the program targets all manner of unsafe behavior. As such, SADD has been instrumental in educating Pennsylvania teens about the state’s texting while driving ban and the dangers of this behavior.

Distracted driving includes more than just texting. Other unsafe activities include other cell phone or smart phone use, eating and drinking, grooming, adjusting an MP3 player, CD player or radio, watching a video, reading, using a navigation system and talking to other passengers in the vehicle. The chance of a young driver being involved in a car accident increases greatly when there are other passengers in the vehicle. Ten percent of all vehicle fatalities for drivers under 20 years of age reflects a situation where the driver was distracted. This makes up the largest proportion of distracted drivers on the road. Legislation, information and education are powerful tools in fighting these deadly activities and keeping our teens and young drivers safe.

Paul Oven
Paul started as a Law Clerk with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, L.L.P. while attending the University of Scranton in 1990. After completing law school in 1995, he started as an Associate in the Scranton/Moosic office immediately and became a Partner in 2000.