As of March 2012, Pennsylvania became the 35th state to join the ranks of other states, including California, that have banned texting while driving. Now, police officers can pull Pennsylvania drivers over for typing, sending or reading messages via SMS, twitter, facebook, or any other social program. They can also ticket drivers for using or looking at handheld or pad electronic devices.
Police can make a determination that a driver was texting by sight, drivers’ or passengers’ statements, or by reviewing cell phone records. If the police does make such a determination, he may ticket the driver. The texting while driving penalty is currently $50.
Many states also have laws that ban handheld devices. In California, handheld devices were banned before the texting while driving ban took effect. The overall goal is clearly to reduce distractions while driving. Taking aim at the cell phone and its many distracting features is the way states are trying to achieve this goal.
Legislators in Pennsylvania have said that they think the ban on handheld devices is coming. It probably is. It is likely inevitable. Requiring drivers to use earpieces to talk on the phone can make it easier for drivers to keep their eyes on the road and reduce the distraction of using the phone. In addition, it is difficult to tell if a driver is holding his phone to make a call on a handheld device, or breaking the law and sending prohibited text messages. Banning handheld devices as a whole will help remove the gray area from the laws.
Some Pennsylvanians are against the ban on handheld devices. Some feel that cars are now equipped with features that eliminate the need to use handheld devices anyway, given the Bluetooth features that enable calls to come through the car speakers. However, all drivers do not have new cars with these features, and even those that do are not guaranteed to use them all the time and never hold the phone up to their ear. This is where a handheld ban could become useful.
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of automobile accidents. Distractions come from a wide variety of sources, but cell phone distractions have become an increasingly bigger issue.