While the number of distracted driving citations are on the rise in the state, according to a Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts news release, the number of citations are decreasing in Centre County. Figures show the number of citations increased 52 percent statewide between 2014 and 2016 but decreased 68 percent in the county over the same time.
The total number of citations cover three offenses, the release said — use of a hand-held mobile telephone by a commercial driver, use of headphones and prohibited text-based communications. Total violations in Centre County dropped from 92 to 29 over the two-year period.
Local school bus drivers, however, are reporting an increase in reported school bus violations and incidents of distracted driving, according to Ferguson Township police. Local school bus violations have increased 385 percent, from 7 during the 2016-17 school year to 34 this year.
Drivers who meet or pass a stopped school bus face a $500 fine and 60-day license suspension, police said. All buses are now equipped with cameras to monitor this activity.
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State police spokesman Jeff Petucci, of Troop G headquarters in Hollidaysburg, said he frequently reminds driver’s education students that anything that takes your eyes of the road is a distraction, and “more often than not it’s an electronic device they’re distracted by.”
People typically think of texting as the main distraction, he said, but it could be anything a modern phone can do, including sending and receiving emails and surfing the web.
“I’ve personally come up on people after seeing them swerving in the road, and they’ll physically have the phone on the steering wheel typing,” he said. “They don’t even realize someone is beside them watching it happen.”
Petucci said actually speaking on the phone or entering a number to call is not yet considered a traffic offense.
According to the numbers in the release, men are cited more often than women 70 to 28 percent. All drivers are prohibited from texting while driving — including sending, reading or writing a text-based message or email — and from wearing headphones while the car is in motion.