A pair of bills in the Pennsylvania General Assembly would
require drivers in the state to keep their hands off their phone. A third
measure would prohibit young drivers from using any phone while behind the
Sen. Joe Conti, R-Doylestown, has sponsored a bill that
would ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. Talking on a phone equipped
with a “hands-free” device would still be permitted.
The measure, SB675, would make it a summary offense to drive
while using a hand-held phone. Violators would face a $250 fine.
An effort – HB945 – by Rep. Doug Reichley, R-Emmuas, would
prohibit the usage of hand-held devices by drivers on roads with speed limits
higher than 25 mph.
Both bills would exempt emergency calls.
Currently, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey have the
only statewide laws restricting cell phone use in vehicles. However, a half
dozen states forbid young drivers to gab on the phone while behind the wheel.
A bill from Rep. Craig Dally, R-Nazareth, would add
Pennsylvania to that list.
HB1776 would prohibit drivers with learner’s permits or
junior driver’s licenses from using their cell phone. Violators would face as
much as a $300 fine or community service. Emergency calls would be exempted.
“The purpose of this bill is to make sure that young drivers
are dedicated to the responsibility of driving a car,” Dally said in a written
statement. “Driving an automobile should never be considered a casual or
The bills have been introduced as more studies underline the
risks and dangers of driving while talking on the phone.
One of the more recent studies found that using cell phones
while driving can distract drivers, regardless of whether they’re using a
The human brain can’t simultaneously give full attention to
both auditory and visual tasks, according to research by Johns Hopkins
University in Baltimore.
“Our research helps explain why talking on a cell phone can
impair driving performance, even when the driver is using a hands-free device,” Steven Yantis, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain
Sciences at the university, said in a press release.
“When attention is deployed to one modality – say, in this
case, talking on the cell phone – it necessarily extracts a cost on another modality
– in this case, the visual task of driving.”
In other words, if you’re on the phone, your brain can’t
devote as much attention to driving.
SB675, HB945 and HB1776 are before their respective
chambers’ transportation panels.