Last week, Republican Pennsylvania State Representative Rosemary Brown submitted proposed legislation to state lawmakers seeking to curb distracted driving in Pennsylvania. The bill seeks to discourage drivers from using hand-held mobile phones while driving.
The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety (“the IIHS”), an organization which conducts testing to rate vehicle safety, reports many drivers utilize their personal phones to text or chat while also operating a motor vehicle. Driving safety experts fear this practice may contribute to accidents caused by distracted drivers. Although several states in this region have passed laws prohibiting the use of hand held phones by drivers, Pennsylvania has not yet implemented this restriction. Pennsylvania’s laws do currently forbid texting while driving, an offense punishable by a $50 fine.
The legislation proposed by Representative Brown as House Bill 1684 would preclude anyone under the age of 18 from utilizing a phone within the confines of an automobile. It seeks to restrict phone use while driving by drivers over the age of 18 through the imposition of penalties. It imposes three points and a $50 fine for an initial violation, and $150 fines for subsequent violations. The proposed legislation creates an exception for drivers facing emergency situations: in the absence of hands-free communications accessories, first responders and other drivers could employ hand-held mobile technology as an option.
Several studies reported by the IIHS on its website suggest the fairly widespread use of mobile phones by drivers. A report issued by the federal government concluded at any given point during the day, fully 7% of motorists engaged in phone conversations. Many drivers do not pull of the road to respond to phone calls. A nationwide survey conducted during 2015 discovered 4% of drivers stopped at intersections used phones held in their hands. The IIHS has not yet determined whether state legislation prohibiting the use of hand-held mobile phones behind the wheel contributes to a reduction in accident rates.
House Bill 1684 currently awaits consideration by a legislative committee. The proposal has received the sponsorship of a number of state representatives, however. Representative Brown indicated she believes the proposed legislation would contribute to safer driving in the state.