A state House Democrat is following up the texting-while-driving ban with a proposal to outlaw all hand-held cell phone use behind the wheel. Representative Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny) acknowledged his plan is unlikely to come up for a vote, but said it should be a priority. The House returns to session September 24, but there are only eight scheduled voting days remaining in this session.
The 15-term legislator faces a Republican challenger in the November election, but Markosek says his interest in tightening the distracted driving laws isn’t occasioned by the campaign season.
“I have a proven track record that I’ve been a staunch advocate for this kind of legislation for a number of years now, and I think that should dispel any idea that this is some sort of a being done for this particular election,” Markosek said.
Markosek says a phone ban may be too narrow to really crack down on all distracted driving but it still has the potential to change motorists’ behavior.
“In many ways, this bill is not designed to be punitive, but designed to be educational,” Markosek said. “We’ve all seen the signs saying, ‘Buckle up, it’s the law’. Well, here, we can’t say ‘quit any distracted driving’, but it’s not the law. So, by getting something on the books, we feel would make the conversation and the education, would bring all that to a higher level,” he said.
Several lawmakers said there is virtually no chance of passing a handheld cell phone ban this fall, but last fall, the legislature passed a ban on texting while driving. Police roundly criticized the law for being unenforceable because drivers can simply deny they were texting and instead say they were dialing or checking the time. Police cannot demand to see the phone.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, handheld cell phone use while driving is illegal in 10 states and the nation’s capital.