HARRISBURG - As part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, PennDOT urges motorists to drive distraction-free, and reminded drivers of the state's law banning text-based communication while driving.

"Driving is a serious job that requires your full attention, all of the time," PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch said. "Distractions come in all forms, and we all need to take personal responsibility for our actions behind the wheel - that includes avoiding distractions."

Distracted driving can include talking or texting on a cell phone, eating, grooming, adjusting devices such as radios, attending to children or pets and interacting with other passengers in the vehicle.

While all drivers should avoid distractions, for young, novice drivers, distracted driving can compound the inexperience factor and increase the risk of crash. State law bans text-based communication while driving, and violating the law is a primary offense carrying a $50 fine.

According to PennDOT data, more than 14,600 crashes in Pennsylvania involved a distracted driver in 2012; 57 deaths were associated with those crashes. Over the past five years, nearly 11 percent of Pennsylvania crashes involved a driver distraction, resulting in more than 300 fatalities statewide.

To help avoid distractions while driving, PennDOT recommends that drivers follow these safety tips:

- Store or turn off cell phones while driving. If you must make a call, safely pull over to the side of the road.

- Set your GPS, radio and temperature controls before hitting the road.

- Be sure pets are properly restrained. Better yet, leave them at home. Even a minor crash can result in a major injury to a pet.

- Never operate your vehicle and attend to a child at the same time.

- If you drop an object while driving, leave it until you reach your destination or pull over before retrieving it.

For more information, go to www.JustDrivePA.com.