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House approves bill that would ban held-held cell phone use while driving
Pennsylvania House of Representatives recently approved a bill that, if approved by the state Senate, would ban hand-held cell phone use while driving in the Commonwealth.
House Bill 37, sponsored by state Representative Rosemary M. Brown (R-Monroe/Pike) and introduced to the House in early 2019, was approved by a vote of 120 to 74 on Jan. 15 and is heading to the state Senate for consideration.
According to information found on the website www.legis.state.pa.us, Rep. Brown said in a memorandum written for the bill that HB 37 addresses the potentially devastating result of distracted driving through hand-held cell phone usage.
In the memorandum sent to all House members in January 2019, Brown explained that she was re-introducing legislation prohibiting the use of hand-held interactive wireless communications devices (cellular phones and similar items) while operating a motor vehicle on the roadways of the Commonwealth.
“This legislation,” Brown states in the memorandum, “aims to remove the device from the driver’s hands and return their focus to the one and only thing they should be doing: Driving.”
Brown added that while it is important to note and educate drivers that distraction is still present with the use of hands-free technology, she believes that removing the use of hand-held mobile telephones is a “realistic, achievable and crucial step” to help minimize this distraction and create safer driving conditions.
“It's time to put a stop to the distraction,” she said. “Just because we can stay connected when we drive does not mean that we should. No email, no text, no selfie is worth a human life.”
Brown said the provisions of this legislation were updated in 2019 to include:
•Hand-held use is prohibited, and hands-free use is legal;
•Those under 18, or a permit holder, may not use the device on a roadway, even when the vehicle is stopped, but may use the device if the vehicle is stopped outside of a roadway;
•Those 18 and over who possess a valid driver’s license may use the device while the vehicle is stopped;
•Drivers may use the device exclusively for GPS if it is affixed to the vehicle’s surface and not hand-held;
•A 5-year optional sentence enhancement for those guilty of homicide by vehicle, as well as a violation of the hand-held prohibition during the same incident (mirrors the current texting ban); and
•A parent or guardian must certify their child has viewed educational material on the dangers of distracted driving prior to them receiving a driver’s license.
One day before House Bill 37 was approved, the bill was amended to include the following:
•A driver 18 years of age and older may not use an interactive wireless communications device while operating a motor vehicle on a highway or trafficway, unless it is necessary to communicate with a law enforcement official or other emergency service.
•A driver under 18 years of age may not control an interactive wireless communications device while operating a motor vehicle on a highway or trafficway. Exceptions include: If it is necessary for the driver to communicate with a law enforcement official or other emergency service; and/or if the interactive wireless communications device is affixed to the motor vehicle and not in violation of section 4524 (relating to windshield obstructions and wipers) and is being used exclusively as a global positioning or the motor vehicle is stopped outside of a roadway.
The amendment adds that a driver who violates the bill would commit a summary offense and would, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of $150.