Pa. House votes to ban texting while driving, require hands-free devices for cell phonesBy Mark Scolforo, AP
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Pa. House votes to ban drivers’ hand-held phones
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Police could pull over and fine drivers for texting behind the wheel or using a cell phone without a hands-free device under a bill that passed the state House overwhelmingly Tuesday.
The House voted 189-6 to impose the new rules on moving vehicles, with exceptions for navigational systems or dialing 911.
“We are all one text from eternity, but perhaps through the wisdom of the House of Representatives, we can forestall that and be a lot more safer,” said bill sponsor Rep. Joe Markosek, D-Allegheny.
It was sent to the Senate, which in July passed narrower legislation to ban texting while driving.
“On the issue of a broader ban of handheld cell phones, that is something that will be reviewed by the Senate, but my analysis is that it does not yet seem to have enough support to pass,” said Erik Arneson, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware.
The House-passed bill makes violations a “primary offense,” which means officers can stop motorists for violations without needing some other reason to pull them over.
“This isn’t about punishing someone after-the-fact, this is about preventing the accident from occurring,” said Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery, an ardent supporter of the bill.
The fine would be $50, with most of the proceeds going toward educational programs on distracted driving and driving under the influence.
Nineteen states ban texting while driving, and six ban hand-held cell phones, according to AAA. More than 126 bills on those topics are pending in 26 states.
The Markosek bill applies to mobile phones, smartphones, personal digital assistants and portable computers.
A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study last year of drivers of heavy trucks who texted behind the wheel showed their risk of collision was 23 times greater than when they were not texting.
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