FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Joseph F. Markosek
Markosek announces legislation to prohibit use of handheld devices while driving
PITTSBURGH, Sept. 5, 2012 – State Rep. Joseph Markosek, D-Allegheny/Westmoreland, today announced that he will introduce legislation to prohibit drivers from using handheld devices.
“Our current ban on texting while driving is a step the right direction, but it is woefully inadequate to protect people from drivers distracted by handheld devices,” Markosek said when he made the announcement at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
“During back-to-school time it is important to remember that driver distractions lead to unnecessary deaths. Sadly, the doctors and nurses here at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh see too many young people killed by car accidents each year,” Markosek said, noting that motor vehicle accidents continue to be the leading cause of death for teenagers.
“Despite the current law prohibiting texting while driving, 58 people were killed on Pennsylvania roads last year in more than 14,000 distracted driver crashes, according to PennDOT. People should have their hands on the wheel and be focused on the road when they are driving.”
Under the proposed legislation, to be introduced this fall, all drivers would be prohibited from using handheld devices. Exceptions to the prohibitions would include the use of a GPS system, when the vehicle is stopped due to a traffic obstruction and when initiating a phone call. Novice drivers would be prohibited from using any device while driving. Additionally, this legislation would require PennDOT to develop a public education campaign to warn of the danger of distracted driving.
“I have been an active proponent of legislation to eliminate distracted drivers to help make Pennsylvania a safer place,” said Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York County. “I sincerely believe the texting ban was an important first step toward eliminating the dangerous practice of distracted driving on our roadways. Now it is time to take another step toward safety.”
“We have seen too many cases of teenagers involved in motor vehicle crashes here in our Emergency Department,” said Kevin Mollen, M.D., division of pediatric general and thoracic surgery at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. “By educating teen drivers on the dangers of driving while distracted, we hope to make a significant impact on this health crisis.”
According to a Pew Institute survey, about 40 percent of teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) a teen driver is more likely than those in other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported. In 2009, 16 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted.
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC partnered with The Allstate Foundation to develop the “FOCUS - Action Against Distraction” driver simulation project. The simulator uses high-definition video scenes and gaming technology to create unique situations that may be too dangerous to experience while driving a real automobile. The program focuses exclusively on distracted and impaired driving, allowing students to see the consequences associated with each type of driving behavior. This program is designed to modify driving behaviors by illustrating the consequences of their choices made behind the wheel so they don’t repeat their mistakes in reality.
Markosek was a long-time member of the House Transportation Committee, including serving as chairman, before becoming chairman of the House Appropriations Committee for the current legislative session. He is a leading advocate of legislation to reduce distracted driving.
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