Texting While Driving

Corbett Would Sign Driver Cell Phone Ban

Delaware, Maryland and New York all ban hand-held cell phones and texting behind the wheel.  Will Pennsylvania be next?  Governor Tom Corbett would sign such legislation.  Responding to a listener email on Radio PA’s “Ask the Governor” program, Corbett described how he spends a lot of time on the road these days.  Invariably, Corbett says, they’ll pull up beside an erratic driver to find them “texting away.” 

It’s not a new issue in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, but one of the big holdups has often been whether to make this sort of distracted driving a primary or secondary offense.  Governor Corbett says it doesn’t matter to him, and it doesn’t seem to matter to advocates at AAA either.  “A motorist out there really doesn’t know the difference between primary and secondary.  A law’s a law,” says AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman Jim Lardear. 

For instance, Pennsylvania’s seat-belt law is a secondary offense, but PennDOT reports the use rate was 86% last year.   

Two bills currently await additional action in the state House.  HB 8 originally addressed only texting while driving, but it was amended to add hand-held cell phones as a primary offense.  SB 314 originally made both actions a secondary offense, but it was amended to make texting while driving a primary offense.

Popular Lake Closed to Water Activities as Officials Investigate Possible E. Coli Link

A popular lake in Fulton County has been closed to all water-based activities as officials investigate the source of several E. coli cases.   There are now at least  11 cases involving people who reported swimming in the lake at Cowans Gap State Park last month. 

Dr. Stephen Ostroff, acting state Physician General, says they’re conducting an extensive investigation to confirm that the lake is the source and to determine what happened, so corrective measures can be taken.   He says in the cases they’re aware of, swimming in the lake is the one factor they all have in common.

Dr. Ostroff   says waterborne outbreaks of E. coli have occurred over the years and have even involved municipal water supplies.  He says any type of water can become contaminated with E. Coli 0157. He says it doesn’t take very much of the bacteria to cause infection, so even very low level contamination can result in people becoming ill. He says the most common factor was people swallowing the water.

All State Park lakes are tested on a regular basis. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources says only one sampling at Cowans Gap State Park Lake since 2006 has resulted in a closing of the lake’s beaches.  There was a high reading in July that resulted in a closing for part of the day.

Terry Brady, spokesman for the department, says the testing was their barometer that the lake was OK.  He says results were consistently good and consistently low, so now they have to find out, if the infections are linked to the lake, why they were getting good test results.

State Health officials are asking anyone who has been in the lake and experienced diarrheal illness, especially if it’s bloody, to contact them.  It can take 1 to 7 days after exposure for symptoms to develop.  

Parents, Students and Coaches asked to Be Prepared for Fall Sports Seasons


Monday, August 15th, marks the official start of PIAA practices for fall sports, and youth teams  will soon be getting into full swing. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, Safe Kids USA and Johnson & Johnson are all encouraging parents and coaches to protect young athletes, especially on hot, steamy practice days.   

 Meri-K Appy, president of Safe Kids USA, says  that means having adequate training, hydration, and taking breaks. She says kids need to be drinking enough water even before they get on the field.

Appy says preparation includes having a pre-participation physical, warming up before practice and having the proper equipment for the sport.  

Appy adds the whole culture needs to shift, so that we’re aware of the things that could go wrong; we can recognize, for example, the symptoms of a concussion. She says we all need to be speaking up, and kids themselves must learn to advocate for themselves. She says if young athletes don’t feel right, they should be able to say they need a time out, and the adults around them need to let them make that choice.

Appy says about 3.5 million children under age 15 are treated for sports injuries each year.  She says at least half of these injuries are preventable.

Appy says while more attention needs to be paid to serious injuries such as concussions and the risk of heat related illness, parents and coaches can’t forget overuse and other injuries such as muscle strains and tears and bone or growth-plate injuries. She says we have to help our kids make wise decisions.

Safe Kids USA, with Johnson & Johnson, is holding free clinics around the country.   The CDC has a web-based course on recognizing heat-related illness, as well as a tool kit on line.  At least four teen athletes have died in other parts of the country this summer due to extreme heat during practice.  

Toomey Discusses New “Super Committee” Post


Pat Toomey Official Portrait

US Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)

US Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) was a “No” vote on the debt deal that passed Congress last week, but he will serve on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tapped Toomey for the “super committee” job on Wednesday.  Toomey tells reporters he’s honored to serve.  “This is a very important moment in the history of our country.  We’re facing a very serious challenge, and we need to address it very aggressively.” 

The bipartisan, bicameral “super committee” was created by last week’s debt deal, and will be called upon to reduce the deficit by at least $1.5-trillion dollars over the next decade.  They have until November 23rd.  Automatic cuts would be triggered if Congress doesn’t approve the committee’s recommendations. 

Toomey says the tax code is chock-full of opportunities for improvement, and he hopes the committee will take a close look.  “The goals should be to broaden the base and lower the rates, so that we can create an environment that’s more conducive to economic growth,” Toomey explains.  “That will also generate more revenue, a stronger economy always does.” 

While he would like to see the committee put the US on the path toward a balanced budget, Toomey acknowledges that success will require bipartisan support.  As reporters peppered him with questions on Wednesday’s conference call, Toomey cautioned that it’s probably not constructive to conduct committee discussions through the media.   

Other Senators on the committee include: John Kyl (R-AZ), Rob Portman (R-OH), Patty Murray (D-WA), John Kerry (D-MA) and Max Baucus (D-MT).  House members already named to the committee include: Fred Upton (R-MI), Dave Camp (R-MI) and Jeb Hensarling (R-TX).  House Democrats have yet to appoint their members.

Women Business Owners Ready to Ride Out Stormy Economy

Women business owners appear ready to ride out the stormy economy according to the second phase of the first ever PNC Women Business Owners Outlook.  The   survey was done prior to the latest stock market swings and it shows most of the women business owners surveyed intend to grow their companies over the next two years. More than half rely on trying new ways of doing things to make business decisions.   

The outlook also finds financial success is not the primary motivator of women business owners. Beth Marcello, Director of Women’s Business Development for PNC Bank, says nearly half of those surveyed listed passion for their business. She says many women start their own business or buy a business because they’re passionate about the product or service they’re delivering to their marketplace.

Marcello says they know the environment for growth in the future will be different, so they’re trying new ideas they development themselves.  She says they look at it from an analytical standpoint, then apply their own intuition and gut feeling to make decisions that are going to grow the business and take them forward.

There are mixed views on the use of social media among women business owners. Marcello says half of those surveyed nationwide said they used it, but only about 39% of the women business owners in Pennsylvania said they use social media.  Marcello believes there are opportunities for growth that they can still mine.

The survey shows that a majority of Pennsylvania women business owners, 7 out of 10, want to grow their companies but many are hesitant to increase prices or take on risk due to rising costs and the slow economy. They tend to prefer a conservative or balanced approach to risk in making business decisions.

73% of women owners in Pennsylvania and 70% nationwide expect their suppliers to increase prices in the next six months. 48% in Pennsylvania, but only 34% nationwide, plan to pass these increases along to customers.

Corbett Launches Kayak Tour

Governor Tom Corbett will split time between land and water for the remainder of the week, as he begins a three-day kayak tour of Wyoming and Luzerne counties on Wednesday.  Corbett says it gives him the chance to see Pennsylvania from a completely different perspective.  “I’ve seen it from the roads, I’ve seen it from the air, now I want to see it from the streams and rivers of Pennsylvania,” Corbett explained on Radio PA’s monthly “Ask the Governor” program. 

Tunkhannock Viaduct

Gov. Corbett will tour the historic Tunkhannock Viaduct during day one of his kayak trip.

It’s going to be a condensed sojourn down the Susquehanna River, due to Corbett’s recent back surgery.  “But if it works out, I’d like to be able to do it maybe two or three times next summer, and each summer thereafter,” Corbett says.  The goal is to promote Pennsylvania’s natural resources and their impact on the state’s tourism industry. 

The First Lady won’t be with him on this trip, but Corbett says the two enjoy kayaking on vacations.  This even gives the governor the chance to try out the new kayak Mrs. Corbett bought him for his birthday/Father’s Day back in June. 

As many Pennsylvanians remember, former Governor Tom Ridge held similar bicycle tours to promote travel and tourism during his time in office.

Update of Pennsylvania’s Comprehensive Preservation Plan Could Include Your Photo

The state is in the process of updating its comprehensive preservation plan and wants to see what you think is important to Pennsylvania’s history.    The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission is inviting you to share photos of historic places to illustrate the updated plan.  The photos are being displayed on line and some will be included in the official plan.

Scott Doyle, Division manager for Grants and Historic Markers, says it could be a building that’s restored, that’s threatened or needs preservation.  It could be an archaeological resource, a streetscape or a rural landscape.

 Doyle says since this is a plan for all of Pennsylvania and for Pennsylvanians who value their historic resources, they want the public to submit photos of what they value.

All you need to do is take a photograph and email it to papreservethis@yahoo.com.  He says they will review the photo and upload it to their Flickr account. Some photos will be selected for the comprehensive plan.

Doyle says you can learn more at the commission’s web site, phmc.state.pa.us.  

While you can submit photos through the end of the year, there is a deadline of October 31st if you want a chance to have your photo included in the plan.

Doyle says even if you don’t have a photo to submit, please visit the flicker site to see what people have submitted, www.flickr.com/patrailsofhistory.

Doyle says the photos are broken down on the website by region. He hopes the “This is My History” photo campaign will also engage people who generally are not involved in historic preservation or archaeological  preservation to take an interest in it and share their thoughts.

Hearing to Kick-Start Legislative Downsizing Debate


State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler)

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe chairs the House State Government Committee.

There are seven bills before the House State Government Committee, each with a different approach to reducing the size of the General Assembly.  “There’ve been many stories written about this issue; there’ve been citizens across the state – at various times – talking about this issue,” says committee chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), who will convene a public hearing, Tuesday afternoon, in the House Majority Caucus Room.

Efforts to reduce the 253-member General Assembly have not gotten far in years past, but this year one of the bills is sponsored by Speaker of the House Sam Smith (R-Jefferson).  Smith’s bill (HB 153) would amend the state constitution to reduce House membership from 203 to 153, following the 2020 Census.  The Smith bill would only affect House districts, but others would trim the size of both chambers.  For instance, HB 183 would result in 121 House seats and 30 Senate seats. 

Pennsylvania’s cast of 253 lawmakers is the second only to New Hampshire’s 424.  However, when population is factored in, Pennsylvania has the 7th most constituents per Senator and the 18th most constituents per State Rep. 

Beverley Cigler, professor of public policy and administration at Penn State Harrisburg, says there’s no research showing that a smaller legislature is more efficient.  She points to California.  “It is an extremely large state.  It has a House of 80-members and a Senate of 40, so it is a very small legislature, and I think by anybody’s measure they’re a mess.”  Cigler is scheduled to testify before Metcalfe’s committee on Tuesday, and will suggest that other reforms are more promising for improving the legislature than downsizing. 

For chairman Metcalfe, finances are top of mind.  “I think it’s a prime opportunity to take a look at the plusses and minuses of reducing the size of the legislature, especially as it relates to the cost of our legislature, and ultimately the cost of our state government,” Metcalfe says.  Most state spending falls under the executive branch and Metcalfe says that’s where the fat needs to be cut.  “But the legislature needs to lead by example, and I think that’s what these proposals are trying to do.” 



College Students Brace for Added Expense of Textbooks as New Semester Nears

The tuition and room and board will be paid soon, and college students will be scraping money together to get their text books.   87% of college students have had to cut back on expenses to pay for  text books and 45% have had to cut back on food according to a Kno, Inc. college student survey conducted by Kelton Research.

A group of recent college grads has built a free on line service to help students locate needed text books quickly  at the best price.  Jonathan Simkin, CEO of SwoopThat.com, says the system automates the entire process of buying books.  He says students can select their courses and get a list of every book they need and every on line merchant that sells those books. He says the list also gives them expected shipping times and costs.

Simkin says Swoopthat.com also helps students find online vendors that will buy the old text books that they weren’t able to sell to the college bookstore last semester.

The  survey also shows 71% of students want to go digital.    Simkin says eBook adoption is still low, with only about 2.5% of the market.  He says it’s expected to grow to 20% by 2014.   He says it’s not clear how much electronic textbooks would save the college student, since there’s the upfront cost of the tablet or digital reader. He says quick studies they’ve done show students save the most amount of money by buying a print book and selling it back.

Kno, Inc. is an education software  company that sells digital textbooks.

Carbon Monoxide Exposures in the U.S. May Have Been Under-estimated

Carbon monoxide is a leading cause of unintentional poisoning in the U. S. according to a new CDC report, which finds the number of cases have been under estimated.  The report included statistics from the National Poison Data System and finds about 45% of the cases reported to poison centers between 2000 and 2009 were treated on site and not in a medical facility.  

Exposures occur more frequently between November and February among people in the Midwest and Northeast and most happen at home.

Dr. Jeneita Bell, CDC Medical Officer and co-author of the report says those exposed to carbon monoxide are mostly women and children, but the analysis shows men are more likely to die from CO exposure.  

Dr. Bell says some data sources identify older men as being more at risk, but others identify younger men, where they engage in more activities using portable generators or carbon monoxide-emitting devices like pressure washers.

Dr. Bell says during power outages, several issues can lead to a higher risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Using portable generators too close to a home can allow the odorless, colorless gas to seep inside. She says they also found cases where people used charcoal grills inside as sources of heat and cooking.

Dr. Bell says there are also places outside the home where people may not realize they’re at risk, such as boats with motors that produce carbon monoxide.

Dr. Bell says all homes should have a battery-powered carbon monoxide alarms. She says they should be serviced on a regular basis.

To learn more about the issue, go to http://www.cdc.gov/co/.