Shut Up and Drive

Jacy Good was coming home from her graduation at Muhlenberg when a driver on the phone lost control of his minivan. The accident killed her parents, and ended her plans of working this year with Habitat for Humanity. It also began her career as an advocate for motor vehicle laws that reflect what we're learning about the danger of distracted drivers.

Good luck in PA.

Jacy Good was badly hurt after a driver using a cell phone went awry. She couldn't get her message across to Pa. lawmakers.

In reporting today's metro column, I talked about the alarming stats delivering in a series of New York Times articles this month, the failed effort to change legislator's minds in Pennsylvania, and then the local legislation that will grow teeth in November and allow police to stop and ticket motorists in Philly who hold the phone to their ear while driving.

But that law's in danger.

No, the legislature didn't come through with its threats to deny the city money because of its new ordinance. The threat comes from pending legislation in the Pennsylvania Senate, SB 950, that would ban texting.

What's not to like? A study released this week out of Virginia Tech shows texters to be 23 more times more likely to get into a collision than those who are just watching the road.

Well, for starters, the law would pre-empt local ordinances, and make texting a secondary offense, not a primary one. That means no one could be pulled over for texting or talking without a hands-free device. They'd have to be involved in a more serious offense to be stopped.

Councilman Bill Green suspects the hand of the cell phone lobby at work in this subtle effort to weaken Philly's ordinance. He's submitted an Op-ed to the paper that argues:





"Like the tobacco industry, mobile phone providers are making decisions based on their bottom line – decisions that have and will continue to cost lives. The industry’s lobbying efforts have been extraordinarily successful to date: as reported in the Times, the National Highway Traffic Safety Transportation Administration withheld data demonstrating the dangers of cell phones use while driving for fear that it would pressure Congress to enter a debate it wanted to avoid.

We are paying a deadly price – at least 26,000 deaths and 300,000 accidents to date – for the failure to end this practice once and for all. Citizens – the people put in jeopardy by the lack of political courage on this issue at the state and federal level – should contact their state legislators and tell them to preserve Philadelphia’s cell phone ban and pass an aggressive statewide ban before more people are injured or killed."