PA Lawmakers Not Likely to Ban All Cell Phone Use While Driving

Aug 30, 2012

The commonwealth's nearly six-month-old texting-while-driving ban is proving difficult to enforce, in part because it doesn’t extend to all handheld cell phone use behind the wheel.  However, that doesn't mean state lawmakers are of a mind to tighten the measure.  

Senate President Pro Temp Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson)  doesn’t deny the texting ban was a product of compromise, but he said
outlawing the use of handheld cell phones behind the wheel won’t eradicate distracted driving.  

"There are all levels of unsafe driving and just to take into account a handheld cell phone or a texting device, look, once you’re run over, it doesn’t matter what you had in your hand," Scarnati said. 

Other lawmakers echoed Scarnati’s concerns saying police need to be empowered to identify and prosecute all kinds of distracted driving. But it’s not a task likely to be addressed in the handful of days lawmakers are in Harrisburg before the November election.   

Police say the texting ban is difficult to enforce because they have no way of telling if a driver is texting or just dialing a number or using their cell phone to check the time, and they can’t seize the phone to check.

Steve Miskin, spokesman for the House Republicans, says for the past few years, a few driver safety issues have been lumped together in one piece of legislation, not just texting and handheld cell phone bans, but also new rules for teenage drivers. 

"It was never been able to get through.  It would just – it would die.  So we chose a different tack.  Let’s break it up and do it incrementally," Miskin said.   "So we got, teen driving rules, that’s now law.  And we got the texting ban, that’s now law."

But the proposed ban on using handheld cell phones behind the wheel was sacrificed.