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Could new laws and harsher penalties solve distracted driving?

Distracted driving continues to be a major problem that has been causing horrific accidents and numerous fatalities around the country for years now. Statistics tell us that 25 percent of all car accidents are due to distracted driving. In 2015, there were 391,000 injuries due to incidents of distracted driving. It is a problem that many people are aware of but are unwilling to give up, as 80 percent of drivers have admitted to taking part in distracted driving behaviors while driving.

We may have come to the tipping point of the distracted driving problem. Both the public and law enforcement seem to agree that this is a problem that needs to be taken under control. But how is that done? Education about the dangers of distracted driving do not seem to be working. But what has been working and may continue to be implemented is handing down severe penalties for being caught driving distracted.

One state attacking the problem

In the state of Oregon, noticing that their laws were weak and hard to enforce, decided a crackdown was in order. The laws there have banned the use of any mobile device while driving unless it is hands-free. If the driver is under 18, they are not allowed to use any device while driving. The state even increased its penalties for distracted driving. A first offense of distracted driving could result in up to a $1,000 fine and a crash due to distracted driving can be up to a $2,500 fine. For those that continue to drive distracted and keep getting caught, if they reach three offenses in a span of ten years, they could pay a fine up to $2,500 and receive a six-month jail sentence.

Is it working?

The new law and harsher penalties went into effect in October of 2017 in Oregon and they are reporting that so far, the numbers of distracted drivers are going down. It is too early to have full statistics, but law enforcement and elected officials have reported positive results.

Will this new way of attacking driving work throughout the country? Only time will tell. However, change may need to happen sooner rather than later in Pennsylvania, as distracted driving citations increased 52 percent in 2017. Since 2013, citations have increased 172 percent. Currently, Pennsylvania state law prohibits distracted driving and violators can receive a $50 fine.

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