For the first time, the Senate has passed a bill making texting while driving in Pennsylvania a primary offense.
On a 41-8 vote, the chamber approved a bill allowing police officers to pull a person over, for texting while driving. The measure makes talking on a hand-held phone while behind the wheel a secondary offense. “Every one of us in this room has driven either alongside or behind someone that we think is actually engaged in a DUI,” argued Democrat Jim Ferlo, during debate. “And when we look and pass them, and see what they’re actually doing, as they weave all over the road, and into the berm of the shoulder, we realize they’re not DUI. They’re actually text messaging.”
The House passed a “primary offense” ban last year, but the Senate watered the measure down, and the bill never became law. This is the strictest ban the Senate has passed, to date.
Even though the Senate bill limits talking while driving to a secondary offense, it was too much for eight lawmakers, including Republican Jake Corman. “I just don’t think the evidence is out there that adult drivers using hand-held cell phones is more distractive than other forms of distraction that are allowable on the roads,” he explained.
There are several competing cell phone bans working their way through the General Assembly, and it’s not clear which measure will see a vote next. House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said his caucus will “take a look at [the measure] and talk to our members.”
33 states ban texting while behind the wheel. 9 have hand-held cell bans on the books.