State Lawmakers to Vote on Potential Handheld Phone Ban for Drivers
State Lawmakers could vote to ban handheld cell phone use for drivers as early as Wednesday. Amendments were made to the bill yesterday, which was originally proposed on January 9th, 2019.
House Bill 37 was meant to ban all handheld cell phone use for drivers and make it a stoppable offense, but the amendments made Tuesday make it a secondary offense. That means police wouldn't be able to stop drivers just for using their phones and would have to stop them for another offense.
This would also make texting and driving a secondary offense, which weakens the law against texting and driving. In Pennsylvania drivers can currently be stopped for texting, but not for making phone calls or using their GPS. Pennsylvania's texting and driving law has been in place since 2010 and enforcement has proven to be difficult for officers.
Erie News Now spoke with Patrolman Christopher Buckner with the Millcreek Police Department about the current law. "You have to say with certainty that the person you are stopping was texting," he said, "If you speak to them and they say they were making a phone call, then they were within their rights and within the law."
Patrolman Buckner said a full ban on handheld cell phone use would make enforcement easier for police and he believes make the roads safer. "Not having your phone in your hand, not being distracted by that, would certainly hopefully lead to safer roadways," he said.
Many cars now have features to combat handheld cell phone use like Bluetooth and voice control options so drivers don't need to pick up their phones or take their eyes off the road. Smartphone assistants like Siri, Bixby and Google can also aid drivers in hearing texts, responding to messages and looking up directions without taking hands off the wheel.
There are currently 48 states that ban texting and driving and 20 states that ban all handheld cell phone usage while driving. Some of those states include Pennsylvania's neighbors New York, Maryland and West Virginia. Pennsylvania drivers can be stopped and ticketed in those states if caught using their phones while driving.