If you're reading this while driving, stop! Driving that is.
Then click off the cell phone, pack away the BlackBerry, and read on.
The travel experts at AAA MidAtlantic want you to know that as dangers on the road go, distracted drivers took top ranking in a recent survey of 250 Pennsylvania motorists.
Thirty-four percent cited distracted drivers as the biggest danger they face as motorists, up from 24 percent in a similar poll conducted in 2005. Another 30 percent cited aggressive drivers as the chief road peril, down from 40 percent in 2005.
As for solutions, polled motorists overwhelmingly favored restricting the rights of teenage drivers. Nearly 90 percent said they should not be allowed to use cell phones while driving; 80 percent said the state should limit the number of passengers a new teen driver can have riding along. So-called distracted-driving bills are pending in 39 states, according to the AAA.
The Pennsylvania results, released yesterday, have emboldened State Rep. Kathy Watson (R., Bucks) to continue her push for legislation she says would save lives of young drivers by, in part, limiting their distractions - namely passengers. In 2005, the most current year for which statistics are available, 89 traffic fatalities in Pennsylvania involved drivers 16 and 17 years old, according to AAA.
Watson's bill, which she reintroduced in the House in January after it failed to pass last year, would prohibit more than one passenger in a vehicle operated by a junior driver's license holder, with some exceptions for siblings and farming communities.
The legislation also increases the hours of behind-the-wheel training from 50 to 65, including 10 hours of night driving and five in inclement weather. The bill also would make failure to wear a seat belt for anyone younger than 18 a primary offense.
Currently, Pennsylvania law allows for as many passengers as there are seat belts. Failure to wear a seat belt is only a primary offense when children up to 3 years of age ride unbuckled.
Joining AAA officials at a news conference in her home municipality of Warrington Township, Watson said that despite the poll results, she is not inclined to include a provision in her bill banning cell-phone use among young drivers. If anything, she said, legislation should ban the use of handheld phones for adult drivers too so they could "lead by example."
In any event, that would not eliminate all the driving distractions contributing to the dangerous conditions on the roads, said AAA spokeswoman Catherine Rossi. She noted the especially dangerous proliferation of text messaging going on in driver's seats.