Beginning Dec. 1, fines of at least $75 will be issued to drivers caught text messaging while on the road in Philadelphia.
Unless Philadelphians are willing to risk a hefty fine, they’ll soon need to pass on picking up their phones while driving.
Beginning Dec. 1, motorists caught texting or talking on cell phones will be subject to fines starting at $75. If not paid on time, fines will jump to $300.
The ban was enacted Nov. 1, but law officials are giving a month of leeway before fines are distributed. For the next month, officers will be issuing warnings to motorists caught using hand-held devices.
“A driver using a cell phone to dial a number or to send a text message is potentially as dangerous to others as a driver who has been drinking,” Councilman Bill Greenlee, who pushed the bill for the ban, said. “They are simply not giving their full attention to the road, and that puts us all at risk.”
Research shows cell phones are hazardous when used while driving. As estimated by the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis, approximately 6 percent of all car accidents occur because of cell phone use. This equates to more than 636,000 crashes, 12,000 serious injuries and roughly 2,600 deaths per year.
The Philadelphia bill against cell phone usage while driving states the cost of crashes caused by mobile phone usage while operating motor vehicles is estimated at $43 billion annually.
Of all cell phone-related tasks, texting seems to pose the highest risk of accident. A recent study by Car and Driver magazine showed texting while driving is far more dangerous than drunk driving. The study said it took drunk drivers 4 feet on average to hit the brake pedal when prompted, whereas it took an average of 70 feet for a texting driver to hit the brake.
“I think texting while driving should definitely be banned,” sophomore math major Charlotte Gonwa said. “People say that they’re paying attention, but you can’t look at two places at once. However, I do think talking on a phone is fine.”
A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute showed texting while driving posed 23 times a greater risk of accident than when not texting. Talking on a cell phone created a 1.3 percent risk of getting into an accident, as opposed to driving without distraction.
“I’ve been really close to getting into an accident while texting,” Kristin Thumma, a junior education major, said. “I once ended up going over the sidewalk into a convenience store parking lot, and all the people in the parking lot saw me. It was definitely one of those ‘Oh my God’ moments, and so now I’m afraid to do it again.”
Some students, however, are questioning how law enforcement will be able to successfully impose the ban.
“There’s really no way for it to be enforced,” sophomore journalism major Eric Hager said. “Laws that can’t be enforced won’t be laws.”
Some said they assume it will not actually prevent a significant number of people from using cell phones while driving.
“People will just drive and put their phones down when they see a cop car,” sophomore sports management major Harry Gaffney said.
“It won’t stop me,” sophomore business major Stephen Monihan said. “I think I’m a pretty confident driver and am able to multitask. The ban will probably make me hide my phone more, but I’ll still use it the same amount.”
Others, however, say the ban will impact how often they use their phones while driving.
“Just because I know cops will be looking out for it, I think I’ll use it a lot less,” Gonwa said.
While hands-free devices and 911 emergency calls are still permitted, the ban also applies to alternative forms of transportation. For those who rely on biking, skateboarding, riding a scooter or inline skating to get around, fines will also be implemented for using cell phones while traveling.
“Using a cell phone while driving can turn a trip to the grocery store into a trip to the emergency room,” Greene said. “We don’t need drivers ‘drunk’ on technology putting pedestrians and other motorists at risk.”
Grace Dickinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.