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Distracted driving citations on the rise in Pennsylvania

YORK, P.A. --- New numbers from Pennsylvania courts show a substantial increase in drivers receiving citations for distracted driving.

Distracted driving includes sending a text message or email behind the wheel or using headphones or earphones to listen to music while driving.

5,054 drivers were hit with $50 fine for distracted driving in Pennsylvania last year, up from 3,334 the year before.

The totals have increased 172 percent since in 2013, which saw 1,858 drivers get citations

Detective Robert Higgins with the Hampden Township Police Department in Cumberland County said it's a trend law enforcement is seeing and believing.

"Typically, when our officers respond to crashes, one of the first things we always hear is an excuse that we just looked down for a minute, just looked down for a second and that's all it takes," said Higgins.

Higgins said it's a challenge enforcing distracted driving because of things like rush hour traffic and understanding what device is being used.

For example, a bluetooth phone earpiece versus listening to music on headphones.

Higgins said the signs of distracted driving is similar to drunk driving.

"Is this person distracted to the point where they're losing sight of the roadway? Did they roll through a stop sign? are they stopping short for red lights because they're just not paying attention?" said Higgins.

Drivers like Jaxon Carmichael in York County, which, statistically, has the most distracted driving citations issued in central P.A, say it calls for more attention behind the wheel.

"No one is a NASCAR driver that I know of so always be ready, be on the lookout and bob and weave when you can," said Carmichael.

According to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey, the number of drivers admitting to using a phone behind the wheel has gone up 30 percent since 2013.

Jenny Walker from Manchester Township, York County said she believes the number of devices is exceeding the amount of available enforcement.

"Everyone's always like don't text and drive but everyone does it until something happen and then they don't do it anymore because they have a story to tell," said Walker.

In Pennsylvania, court information says a combined 81 percent of distracted driving citations issued are for people between the age of 20 and 49.

37 percent went to people in their 20s, 28 percent went to people in their 30s, and 16 percent went to people in their 40s.

Only six percent of citations went to teens.