COVINGTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- New numbers released this week show the number of citations for distracted driving in Pennsylvania has skyrocketed, and the biggest offenders tend to be young people.
"I see too many people on their phones while leaving the school and at dismissal. Even if we’re driving under 5 mph, it’s not something anyone should be doing," North Pocono High School senior Allison Scherger said.
Members of the Students Against Destructive Decisions program at North Pocono High School think texting while driving is one of the most destructive decisions you could make.
"Every student has a phone, so it's a huge problem. I'm also a parent of two daughters. They don't drive yet, but it's my number 1 fear that they're going to reach for that phone when they should be keeping an eye on the road. So it's a big problem, hopefully, with April being an awareness month, we can do more for it," said SADD Advisor Julie Davis.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness month. PennDOT reports that it was a contributing factor to 61 percent of deaths on Pennsylvania roads in 2016.
"Knowing what happens and not being naive as a teenager, I think it's really important to share with the student body and make sure that they know there are consequences to their actions, and bad things can happen if you don't make good decisions," North Pocono senior Jenna Schmidt said.
"SADD isn't just a group of students who claim to make really great decisions. SADD is a group of students who are trying to promote change and encourage those great decisions across the whole student body," Scherger added. She is the President of the organization this year.
While Pennsylvania State Police are always on the lookout for distracted drivers, during the month of April, they'll be placing extra emphasis on detecting it. From April 15-21, PSP says there will be greater enforcement on distracted driving.
"Of course it would be easiest to say, 'Turn off your phone or put it in the glove compartment,' but obviously not everyone is going to want to follow that rule," Scherger said.
Citations for distracted driving in Pennsylvania have increased 172 percent since 2013. In Lackawanna County, citations increased about 40 percent from 2016 to 2017.
SADD members at North Pocono encourage their classmates to turn their phones on silent or get an app that will turn off notifications if the car is in drive.
"I'll send a friend a text, and I'll get the automated thing back that says, 'I'm driving. I'll pick this up later.' That makes me really happy because I know they're making safe decisions," Scherger said.
In the coming weeks, SADD members will include distracted driving in their "Prom Promise" safety campaign.