Is distracted driving illegal in Pennsylvania?

On Behalf of | Aug 14, 2023 | Car Accidents |

Pennsylvania state law requires drivers to operate their vehicles with care. There are various traffic rules and laws that help to ensure drivers meet this expectation. For example, current law makes it illegal to use an Interactive Wireless Communication Device (IWCD), like a cellphone or smartphone, to send, read, or write texts while driving. Additional laws can also apply depending on the situation. This could include allegations of careless or reckless driving.

Pennsylvania lawmakers are taking further steps to crack down on distracted driving. They recently proposed and are moving forward with a new bill that strengthens penalties for using a cellphone while driving.

How is this proposal different from current law?

The current law discussed above makes use of a cellphone while driving punishable with a $50 fine. It is a primary offense, meaning police can stop a vehicle they suspect of a violation. They do not need additional concerns to justify the stop.

The proposal would expand the law to include use of a phone for most other functions. This means drivers would not be able to:

  • Use a hand-held cellphone while driving to make calls, find directions, open a music app, check social media, etc.
  • Use their hand-held phone while stopped at a traffic light.

There are some exceptions to the law. Notably, the law would allow drivers to use their phones to call 911 and could still use wireless communication such as Bluetooth.

What are the penalties?

If the proposal passes and becomes law, it would increase the fine and the driver could face additional jail time if the violation resulted in a crash that caused death or injury to others.

Will the proposal become law?

Thus far the proposal appears to have bipartisan support. The Senate passed the proposal and is under review by the House of Representatives.

If passed, the law as currently written includes a one-year grace period. This means that officers would provide a written warning for the first year before the increased penalties would go into effect.

What if I am injured in a crash?

Serious car crashes continue to be a problem in Pennsylvania. Those who are injured because the other driver was on their phone are likely eligible for compensation through a personal injury claim. An attorney experienced with this area of law can review your situation and discuss your options.

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