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Politics & Government

State Moves Forward in Effort to Ban Texting While Driving

With near unanimous support, a ban against text messaging while driving has passed the General Assembly and now awaits Gov. Tom Corbett's signature.

The bill allows police to pull over drivers suspected of texting while driving and issue a $50 fine. Democratic Senator Jim Ferlo of Allegheny County said that after years of debate, final passage is better late than never.

"So I'll just conclude and say O-M-G and hallelujah," Ferlo joked.

There were five senators who voted against the proposal, with some saying that the ban has no teeth, and others in contrast saying that it should be a secondary offense, if anything.

John Eichelberger, a Bedford County Republican, said the ban needs to be stronger because it doesn't apply to someone typing a phone number or name into a cell phone to begin a call.

"So if I'm holding my Blackberry and the officer sees me and stops me and I simply say, 'I was making a telephone call or checking my voicemail or using it for navigational purposes,' how's he supposed to know what I was doing?" Eichelberger asked.

Others, including Jake Corman (R-34), said he voted against the bill because he deemed it too excessive to make texting a primary offense.

"Primary offense is something that if a police officer sees you committing this violation, they can pull you over for it. A secondary offense, like seatbelts are today, they can only give you a citation if they pull you over for some other primary offense," he said.

The measure originally included a ban on talking on the phone while driving if no hands-free device was used, and a ban on all phone use for younger drivers. Those provisions were stripped out of the bill in the house.

Governor Corbett is expected to sign the bill within the week.