Media & Public Relations

Contact: Carl DeFebo
Phone: 717-645-2265
May 25, 2011

Pa. Turnpike, AAA Urges Memorial Day Drivers to Steer Clear of Texting while Driving

'Safety Break' event at Allentown Service Plaza on Friday will promote text-free driving.

HARRISBURG, PA (05/25/2011)(readMedia)-- The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission is partnering with AAA to urge Memorial Day motorists to keep both hands on the wheel as they travel the state's roadways over the holiday weekend. A Safety Break at the Turnpike's Allentown Service Plaza will help enlighten drivers on the dangers of distracted driving. The Safety Break - the first of five such events set on the Turnpike this year - will be held May 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the rest stop on the Northeastern Extension (Interstate 476) about 1.5 miles south of the Lehigh Valley Interchange (Exit #56).

"We are working hard to educate our customers about the dangers of texting while driving; we've declared America's First Superhighway the 'Text-Free Turnpike,'" said Pa. Turnpike CEO Roger E. Nutt. "We're sending a strong message to travelers: Quit texting on the Turnpike, and keep your thumbs on the wheel."

Statistics show that, in 2010, almost 200 Pennsylvania Turnpike accidents were attributed to driver distraction. While these are not specific to texting alone, the numbers indicate a troubling trend.

"We are responsible for the safety of all who drive or work on the Pennsylvania Turnpike," said the Turnpike's Manager of Customer Safety Joseph L. Rispoli. "When you text behind the wheel, you not only endanger your own safety, you endanger the lives of everyone else on the road, including highway workers, emergency responders, toll collectors and other travelers."

Turnpike safety personnel, AAA representatives and others will be on hand at the Safety Break on Friday to provide relevant materials and talk to travelers about distracted driving. They will be distributing "Text-Free" thumb bands as a reminder to drivers to keep their thumbs on the wheel, and AAA East Central will hand out distracted-driving brochures.

"In 2009, AAA launched a national campaign to pass laws banning text messaging while driving in all 50 states," said Theresa Podguski, director of public affairs for AAA East Central. "Currently, 32 states and the District of Columbia have laws that address text messaging by all drivers and an additional seven states which prohibit texting while driving by teen drivers. Since Pennsylvania does not have a texting-while-driving ban in place, AAA representatives across the Commonwealth are working with legislators to pass legislation this year."

In addition to educating drivers about texting, the Safety Break event will offer displays including the Turnpike's State Farm Safety Patrol vehicles and officers from Pennsylvania State Police Troop T, the Turnpike troop.

"This Memorial Day weekend, we advise drivers to avoid needless distractions, the most common of which is cell-phone use," said Cpl. Richard N. Dean of Pa. State Police Troop T, the unit in charge of Turnpike patrols. "Those who use handheld devices while driving are four times as likely to get into serious crashes, injuring themselves or others. So put down that phone and focus on the road."

The Allentown Plaza is located in Lehigh County between the Northeastern Extension's Lehigh Valley and Quakertown exits .The plaza was renovated and reopened in 2008 and is accessible to traffic from both directions.

In all, the Turnpike will host six distracted driving/texting awareness Safety Breaks in 2011. The other locations are: June 17, King of Prussia Service Plaza, Montgomery County; July 1, Sideling Hill Service Plaza, Fulton County; Aug. 12, Bowmansville Service Plaza, Lancaster County; Sept. 2, New Stanton Service Plaza, Westmoreland County; Nov. 23, Lawn Service Plaza, Dauphin County. All events are held from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. To learn more, visit