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Enforcing Pennsylvania's distracted driving law proves difficult

An article on WPXI-TV’s website shows the challenges law enforcement and prosecutors face in catching and charging distracted drivers. Though Pennsylvania has an anti-texting and driving law, joining many other states, actually enforcing that law can be difficult.

Heath Long, an assistant district attorney for Cambria County with around 20 years of experience, said in the article that distracted driving cases are some of the hardest in which to secure a conviction. Such cases usually rely on phone records, which can take months, if not years, to produce.

And that is when prosecutors have enough evidence to charge a motorist with texting and driving. Though they try their best, police often have a hard time catching texting motorists.

The wording of the law also limits enforcement. Only texting is a crime. Holding a phone in your hand is not. Drivers are allowed to use their phone for other things, such as getting GPS directions, talking or even taking photos, which makes it even tougher for police.

Still, Pennsylvania State Police say they have managed to issue some citations. They said they wrote 387 citations for texting and driving last year, up from 268 in 2014.

Criminal law is separate from civil law, which empowers those who suffer a personal injury to get compensation from those who caused it. While many of the same issues exist in a personal injury suit as in criminal prosecution, the burden of proof is significantly lower. This means a distracted driver who evades prosecution for causing a crash can still be held financially responsible.

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