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Police: Texting while driving difficult to enforce

By Meghan Packer, Reporter, MPacker@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 12 2014 05:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 12 2014 07:55:43 PM CDT

Texting while driving has been banned in Pennsylvania for more than two years.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

Texting while driving has been banned in Pennsylvania for more than two years.

The law went into effect in March of 2012, but you wouldn't know it based on the number of tickets local police are writing for it.

Several local agencies tell 69 News they have issued no texting while driving citations. Many officers say it is just difficult to enforce.

"You can't deny the facts that distracted driving in general is extremely dangerous," said Lt. Peter Nickischer with the Upper Macungie Township Police Department.

But he admitted, "It's incredibly difficult to enforce. The reason for that is because you have to be able to prove it."

Captain William Reinik with the Allentown Police Department echoed those concerns.

"Quite frankly texting, in my belief, is a lot more dangerous than drinking and driving," said Reinkik.

"It's difficult to tell if somebody's actually using it as text messaging letters or dialing a phone," he added.

Nickischer said officers keeping their eyes on a driver long enough to determine if he or she is texting is dangerous in itself.

"While I'm looking at that person, now I've taken my eyes off the road and essentially I'm a danger to myself and the motoring public because now I'm distracted," he explained.

Officers can't just can't ask someone to hand over his or her phone. They would need a search warrant for that and police say that's unlikely to happen unless there is a serious accident.

"The officer has to write the search warrant, has to get it signed by a judge and then has to serve the search warrant. So we have an officer who's going to do that all over a summary traffic ticket? It's just not realistic," said Nickischer, who said he was not aware of his department issuing any texting citations.

Police departments in Salisbury Township, Whitehall Township, and Washington Township, Northampton County also said they have not issued any texting tickets.

"In Allentown we've probably had about 20 or less citations issued to motors that we believed were texting," said Reinik.

State Police have issued more. Troopers have issued 627 citations statewide since the law went into effect and the local Troop M has issued 55.

Nickischer said, "An ideal enforcement, it's just very difficult. It's complicated. I don't have a solution at this point."

Police said it would be easier to enforce a ban on handheld devices all together.