Pennsylvania Texting Ban Takes Effect Thursday
A law banning texting while driving in Pennsylvania that was signed by Gov. Corbett last November will go into effect when the clock strikes midnight on Thursday. The law makes it a primary offense to send text messages, emails, or to browse the internet, which means that you can get pulled over for using your phone without violating any other driving laws.
Smartphones can be used for GPS purposes and you’re still allowed to make phone calls in the car, which will make it difficult for police officers to prove a crime was committed, as they are not given authority to seize cell phones under the law. This means that without strong evidence that a driver was texting, most will be let off with warnings if they claim they were just dialing a phone number.
Maria Finn, a Pennsylvania State Police spokeswoman, said that they hope the law will educate drivers about the potential consequences of sending text messages while driving, resulting in voluntary compliance. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be pulling people over.
“Troopers will attempt to use observations of the driver while the vehicle is in motion to determine if traffic stops are warranted in any particular situation,” said State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan. “For instance, if a motorist continues to manipulate the device over an extended distance with no apparent voice communication.”
Those caught violating the law will face a $50 fine, which doesn’t include any points on the driver’s license. This is nothing in comparison to texting laws in states such as New Jersey, where the first offense carries a $200 fine and recurring violations can cost the offender up to $600 in addition to points and a license suspension.
The law, which was debated for years, comes in response to an increasing number of accidents related to distracted driving. In 2010, there were nearly 14,000 such accidents in Pennsylvania. Let’s be honest, those that text-and-drive are going to continue to text-and-drive, but it remains to be seen if this law will be more effective than similar bans in other states, which have done little to actually stop behind-the-wheel texters.