April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and in Pennsylvania, the push for legislation to combat distracted driving continues.
Advocates at today’s distracted driving awareness event are very familiar with making the trip to Harrisburg and meeting with lawmakers, all in an effort to fight distracted driving.
Student advocates, lawmakers, and families of victims gathered on the steps inside the Capitol to share their stories. Some, like Eileen Miller, have been sharing their story and advocating in Harrisburg for several years.
“My life was drastically changed. My whole life has changed. My whole world is changed,” said Miller.
In 2010, Miller lost her son, Paul, who was killed by a distracted driver.
“Pennsylvania, it’s time to do something. Please. I’m tired of coming here, begging and begging and begging. It’s time,” said Miller.
Miller has been urging the General Assembly to pass House Bill 37. A piece of legislation that is overdue, according to advocates and bill sponsor, Representative Rosemary Brown (R-Monroe/Pike)
“Pennsylvania is severely behind in doing everything possible that we can to help minimize cell phone distractions while still allowing drivers to use the technology,” said Brown.
The bill would increase distracted driving laws like prohibiting handheld cell phone use, especially texting.
“Which really has not been enforced due to a very ineffective and unenforceable state law,” said Brown when speaking about the current Texting While Driving Ban.
“For Distracted Driving Awareness Month, I am asking all constituents within Pennsylvania to reach out and speak to their legislators, both in the House and the Senate, and ask them to vote affirmatively for House Bill 37 because it’s reasonable, it’s not overreaching, it is true common sense of what we are dealing with on our roadways. And it may help protect you, your family and your friends who are doing everything right,” said Brown. “But you could be an innocent victim of irresponsible behavior,” she added.
Advocates say the legislation is vital, especially at a time when device dependency is reaching new heights.
“My generation was thrown into a world of forced necessity to use our devices, to connect to our classrooms, our jobs and our friends,” said Student Advocate Ben Novotny.
Novotny is also the Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) student of the year in Pennsylvania. He says the COVID-19 Pandemic exacerbated digital dependency for teenagers and young adults during a time of isolation.
“But the pandemic has only expedited this process, causing us to become dependent,” said Novotny.
He says that while everyone was waiting, and continues to wait for a return to normal, there’s an opportunity, now, for a “new normal.”
“A normal in which technology is not a driving distraction, and we are all present in the moment and not subjected to device dependency,” said Novotny.
The SADD TextLess Live More initiative is working to educate teens and young adults about digital wellness and dependency.
“This month, we’re connecting these two health issues and starting a conversation with teens about their own digital health and distraction,” said Novotny.
However, Pennsylvania SADD State Coordinator, Felicity Erni, says the conversation doesn’t end with teenagers.
“It’s also the PTO mom, the commercial driver, our parents and our grandparents who are digitally dependent and using devices in vehicles,” said Erni.
Road safety advocates and family members of victims, like Miller, have had enough. They’re ready for new legislation.
“Eight years to get a common-sense law to save lives. It’s time, Pennsylvania,” said Miller. “Turn the phones off and the technology off and just drive. We don’t want any more families, we don’t want any more pictures, we don’t want it to happen to anybody else,” Miller added.