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Texting While Driving Ban Passes PA House, Senate

A spokesman for Governor Tom Corbett said the governor will sign the bill into law.

By Caleb Taylor | PA Independent

Drivers in Pennsylvania have been sent a clear message by the General Assembly: Stop texting while driving or get a ticket and a $50 fine.

The state Senate passed Senate Bill 314, introduced by state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson, R-Bucks, on Tuesday. The bill bans texting while driving. 

Under Tomlinson’s bill, texting while driving would be a primary offense, like speeding, which means a violator can be stopped by law enforcement solely for committing the offense. Those convicted of texting while driving would face a fine of $50. 

Proponents of the measure say the ban will save lives, but opponents say the ban won't help solve the problem of distracted driving. 

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester, said the measure will make the roads safer. 

“This is not government interfering in people’s private lives,” said Dinniman. “This is a matter of protecting those who would be killed by those texting while driving.” 

However, state Sen. Mike Folmer, R-Lebanon, said legislative measures will not solve the problem. 

“Everyone knows texting while driving is not a bright idea, but we already have distracted driving laws,” Folmer said. "We need to start teaching personal responsibility (on distracted driving), not another law."

The final vote in the Senate was 45-5, following a vote of 186-7 on Monday in the state House. 

The bill will now go to Gov. Tom Corbett for consideration. Kelli Roberts, deputy director of communications for Corbett, said the governor “supports it and will sign it" into law. 

The bill came out of the House Transportation Committee recently as a secondary offense, such as seat belt laws, which requires the violator to commit a primary offense first before being stopped by law enforcement. However, the House passed the bill later with an amendment to make texting while driving a primary offense

State Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery, said making texting while driving a primary offense was “critical in order to stop accidents before they occur.” 

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Butler, said the bill was an example of “more promotion of nanny state government that restricts liberty and responsibility.”

About this column: Stories from the state capitol, first published on PAIndependent.com.

Chris Boehm November 06, 2011 at 04:41 PM
It's time we get back to paying attention to the road while driving!
Lyle Richardson November 06, 2011 at 11:58 PM
Just curious would this law cover GPS units also, because they can be distracting also. I have a voice activated so i dont have to type in addresses, but not all are voice activated.
Mary Terp (Ebby) November 07, 2011 at 12:01 PM
Good question Lyle. But then would the law also cover changing radio stations? How about writing a note on a post-it? At what point does it become "texting"? I'm all for stopping texting and driving but tend to agree that the problem is distracted driving and texting is just one way to be distracted.

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