Six months into Pennsylvania’s texting-while-driving ban, there’s already a push for the state to do more. Rep. Joe Markosek (D-Allegheny/Westmoreland), a former chairman of the House Transportation Committee, wants to ban drivers from using hand-held cell phones.
Markosek’s new bill would mirror the texting ban in terms of enforcement and penalties. Hand-held cell phone use behind the wheel would be a primary offense punishable by a $50-dollar fine. No points would be tacked onto the offender’s license, and the phone could not be confiscated.
“As much as we would like to think that, okay, we’ve got the texting ban passed and we can wash our hands of everything… and everything will be fine,” Markosek says, “we are just deluding ourselves into thinking that.”
Some police officers are backing the more comprehensive cell phone ban language too, because they’re finding it difficult to enforce a texting-only ban. “How can we say they are pushing letters rather than numbers, and that they weren’t in fact using their cell phone?” asks Allentown Police Captain Daryl Hendricks.
But Pennsylvania’s texting ban was a product of compromises, and the will was not there to include a comprehensive cell phone ban this session. “We have a lot of unsafe driving habits that not only are due to hand-held cell phones, but they’re due to Big Macs and shakes,” says Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson). “I don’t know how we empower law enforcement to crack down on all types of unsafe driving.”
For his part, Markosek knows the bill likely won’t see action this session, but he’s hoping to set it up to be a priority when the 2013-2014 session of the General Assembly convenes next year. “There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. It is about the safety of our citizens.”
Ten states already ban hand-held cell phones for all drivers. 32-states ban all cell phones for teen drivers.