Pennsylvania bill would outlaw text messaging while driving

| Tuesday, September 11, 2007

An effort in the Pennsylvania House intended to make the state’s roadways safer by banning devices that allow drivers to text message while at the wheel could come up for consideration in the final months of the legislative session. Another bill would restrict phoning in road work zones.

Sponsored by Rep. Eugene DePasquale, D-York, the bill would prohibit operating a motor vehicle while reading, typing or sending text messages on an electronic wireless device, such as a Blackberry. Exceptions would be made for emergencies.

Attempts to curb the practice of using electronic wireless devices while driving have picked up steam following the release of a Nationwide Mutual Insurance survey that found one in five drivers texting while driving. That number nearly doubles for drivers aged 18 to 27.

“It’s a common-sense measure,” DePasquale said in a written statement. “If you are too distracted reading and writing e-mails or text messages rather than paying attention to what’s going on in front of you, then there is a greater chance you will cause an accident.”

Violators would face up to $100 fines.

If approved, Pennsylvania would become only the second state to outlaw text messaging while driving. Washington passed a bill this spring after numerous wrecks involving drivers who had been text-messaging at the time. The new law takes effect Jan. 1.

A bill in the New Jersey Assembly also would ban texting.

Another bill in Pennsylvania is intended to help limit distractions in highway work zones. Rep. Robert Donatucci, D-Philadelphia, has offered a bill that would prohibit hand-held cell phone use where construction workers are present.

Violators would face $100 fines. Offenses would not be moving violations unless the driver is involved in a wreck.

The bill – HB1314 – and DePasquale’s bill – HB1506 – are in the House Transportation Committee. Both bills must pass through the House and Senate before the Legislature finishes up their work by the end of the year.

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