PA needs to follow NY's lead and toughen its distracted driving laws.

The Harrisburg Patriot-News recently ran an excellent news article looking at the problems with Pennsylvania’s no-texting law.

The problem with PA’s anti-texting law is it’s poorly written!

The goal is to prevent distracted driving, but it is so narrowly written that many equally dangerous activities are perfectly legal! PA needs to overhaul its law to be more like NY and prohibit any non-hands-free use of electronic devices.

The Patriot-News reporter talked with a Harrisburg-area police officer who pulled over a woman he thought was texting but she was filing her nails while driving. She was an unsafe distracted driver, yes, but she was doing nothing illegal.

Few police departments in the Harrisburg area have issued citations for driving while texting because even if an officer witnesses a driver using their phone, it’s difficult to prove they were texting, police told the newspaper.

Pennsylvania became the 35th state to ban texting while driving on March 8. It is a primary offense, so police officers can stop drivers for texting behind the wheel and no other violation. The fine is $50.

“There’s no way an officer can determine what a person is doing unless they stop them and the person is honest,” State Police Lt. Robert Fegan told the newspaper. “Therein lies the dilemma.”

According to the article and the state Department of Transportation, Pennsylvania’s law banning texting while driving:

  • Prohibits any driver from using an interactive wireless communication device (IWCD) to send, read or write a text-based communication while his or her vehicle is in motion.
  • Defines an IWCD as a wireless phone, personal digital assistant, smartphone, portable or mobile computer or similar devices that can be used for texting, instant messaging, emailing or browsing the Internet.
  • Defines a text-based communication as a text message, instant message, email or other written communication composed or received on an IWCD.
  • Carries a $50 fine for convictions.
  • Supersedes and pre-empts any local ordinance that restricts the use of interactive wireless devices by drivers.

The penalty is a summary offense. The violation carries no points as a penalty and will not be recorded on a noncommercial driver’s record. It will be recorded on commercial drivers’ records as a nonsanction violation.

The texting ban does not include the use of a GPS device, a system or device that is physically or electronically integrated into the vehicle, or a communications device that is affixed to a mass-transit vehicle, bus or school bus.

It also doesn’t prohibit non messaging uses of the device – so while you can’t text, you may be able to check your facebook account, surf the web, and eat a sandwich all at the same time

Residents of Elmira, Corning and the Twin Tiers, should PA toughen its distracted driving laws? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!

Thanks for reading and sharing your comments!


ZiffLaw Attorney, Esq.
NY and PA Injury and Accident Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
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Elmira, NY 14901
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