Drivers Texting in PA Now Face Fines

Police officers will be increasingly on the lookout for distracted drivers, as Pennsylvania’s new law prohibiting texting while driving goes into effect on March 8, 2012.

What the new law does:

  • Makes it a primary offense to use an interactive wireless communication device (IWCD) to send, read or write a text-based message
  • Defines an IWCD as a wireless phone, personal digital assistant, smartphone, portable or mobile computer, or similar device that can be used for texting, instant messaging, emailing or browsing the Internet
  • Defines a text-based message as a text message, instant message, email or other written communication composed or received on an IWCD
  • Institutes a $50 fine for convictions
  • Makes clear that this law supersedes and preempts any local ordinances restricting the use of interactive wireless devices by drivers

Under the new Pennsylvania law drivers are not permitted to read, send email or surf the Web. Texting is now a primary offense, which means that police may pull over a driver for texting alone. The law does not permit the officer to seize an IWCD. Violation under this new law also does not carry any points and will not be recorded on the driver record for non-commercial drivers.

There still is no statewide ban on cell phone use, and drivers are allowed to talk on their handheld phones while driving. This will make enforcement of the new law tricky for police officers to determine who is texting versus who is dialing a phone number or looking for something they dropped.

“Your most important job when behind the wheel is to focus only on driving. Most people would never close their eyes for five seconds while driving, but that’s how long you take your eyes off the road — or even longer — every time you send or read a text message,” state Transportation Secretary Barry Schoch, said in a press release. “It’s not just your own life you’re risking; it’s the lives and safety of every motorist around you.”

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