Pennsylvania Senate votes to expand ban on using cell phones while driving
Pennsylvania’s state Senate wants to expand a ban on texting while driving and approved legislation on Thursday that would increase the penalties for motorists who are handling their cell phones for almost any activity while driving.
The bill, approved 37-11, goes to the state House of Representatives.
Pennsylvania first banned texting while driving in 2012, a summary offense punishable by a $50 fine. Under the new legislation, motorists cannot handle their cell phones to make a call or almost any other function while driving. That includes while sitting in traffic or at a stoplight.
However, it allows people to push a single button to start or end a phone conversation on a phone that is within easy reach and to use it for navigation or listening to music.
A first offense is punishable by a $150 fine. The bill carries exceptions for emergency responders and for people calling 911.
Offenders who cause serious accidents could get more time in prison.
In cases where the offender is convicted of homicide by vehicle, a court can add a sentence of up to five years. In cases where the offender is convicted of aggravated assault by vehicle, a court can add a sentence of up to two years.
The bill would give drivers a grace period of a year in which they would only receive a written warning for violating it.
It would require driving tests to ask a question about the effects of distracted driving and student driving manuals to include a section on distracted driving and the penalties.