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Pennsylvania Considers Distracted Driving Legislation

A proposed Pennsylvania law banning texting while driving may bring the Keystone State into line with several other states that have banned the practice. According to Chester County's Daily Local News, House Bill 896 dealing with distracted driving has been approved by the House Transportation Committee and is headed to the full House for review. State Representative Chris Ross, who sponsored the bill, describes it as a distracted driving law that may be broader than most. The bill deals with not only texting and cell phone use but also other dangerous behavior, like reading a newspaper or applying makeup while driving. In 2009, Consumer Reports found that 5,474 people were killed due to distracted driving. Only 18 percent of those fatal accidents involved use of a cell phone.

Additional Caveats For Careless Driving Laws

In addition to its breadth, the proposed legislation has another difference from many of its predecessors: the requirement that fines received be used for antidistracted driving education. "States that have simply passed these laws making this a violation have not changed behavior if they haven't coupled it with an effort on education and public awareness," explained Ross. He points to the success of Pennsylvania's Click It or Ticket educational campaign, which has resulted in 86 percent of Pennsylvania's drivers buckling up when getting in a motor vehicle. He hopes the proposed legislation will have the same effect on getting people to pay attention when driving. The new law would impose an additional fine of $50 over and above fines for careless driving.

Pennsylvania, unlike several states, has no prohibition on cell phone use or texting while driving. This has lead several communities to enact their own bans. So if you're driving in Pennsylvania, your cell phone use could be legal or not depending on what town or city you are passing through. Erie, Carbondale, Lower Chichester, Wilkes-Barre, Allentown, and Philadelphia have all enacted some type of cell phone ban. Philadelphia's applies not only to motor vehicles but also to motorcycles, bicycles, skateboards, and skates. The fines can be as high as $300. Hazelton and Bethlehem City are also considering similar legislation. A similar bill introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate reportedly stalled.