A group of state senators is hoping toughen traffic laws around cell phone use.
Sen. Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin) earlier this year introduced a bill to make using a cell phone while driving a secondary offense.
“There would be no violation of this law, if it were to pass, unless the person was convicted of another traffic offense,” Teplitz said.
The legislation proposes a fine of $50 for the first violation, $100 for the second, and $150 for subsequent violations. Law enforcement officers and emergency service providers would be exempt from the law under certain circumstances, and drivers would still be able to use hands-free devices to talk on the phone.
Sen. John Wozniak of Cambria County is one of six Democrats to sign on as co-sponsors of the bill. He said the consequences of violating the proposed law could be far worse than a $50 fine.
“If you have to live the rest of your life knowing, because you were talking … to your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your wife, or significant other about absolutely nothing, and you cause an accident that takes somebody’s life away,” Wozniak said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 421,000 people were injured and 3,300 people were killed in car accidents caused by distracted driving in 2012, a 9 percent increase from 2011.
Pennsylvania already has a law against texting while driving; violation of that law is considered a primary offense. If passed, Pennsylvania would become the 15th state to ban handheld cell phone use altogether.
Teplitz said the bill should pass with bipartisan support, because distracted driving affects all Pennsylvanians.
“Anyone can easily become a culprit or a victim of distracted driving,” Teplitz said. “We are all at risk, and that’s why we have to continue to raise awareness about its dangers and consequences.”
The bill is currently before the Senate Transportation committee.