Diana Dietz

Last Updated: March 7, 2012 | View all posts by Diana Dietz

Pennsylvania’s new law prohibiting texting while driving will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, making texting while driving a primary offense carrying a $50 fine, according to the state department of transportation.

“Your most important job when behind the wheel is to focus only on driving,” said PennDOT secretary Barry J. Schoch in a news release. “Most people would never close their eyes for five seconds while driving but that’s how long you take your eyes off the road, or even longer, every time you send or read a text message.”

Governor Corbett signed legislation last November making Pennsylvania the 35th state to ban texting while driving. The law makes texting while driving a primary offense, which means police may pull over a driver for texting alone. Officers may not seize cell phones from drivers.

The texting ban includes no reading or sending of emails and no web surfing. Drivers will still be permitted to talk on their handheld phones.

The new law specifically does the following:

  • Makes it a primary offense to use an interactive wireless communication device (IWCD) to send, read or write a text-based message.
  • 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 message as a text message, instant message, email or other written communication composed or received on an IWCD.
  • Institutes a $50 fine for convictions.
  • Makes clear that this law supersedes and preempts any local ordinances restricting the use of interactive wireless devices by drivers.

The 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 attached to a mass transit vehicle, bus or school bus.

According to the National Transportation Safety Board, over 3,000 people in the United States died last year due to distraction-related car accidents. In 2010, there were nearly 14,000 crashes in Pennsylvania where distracted driving played a role, with 68 people dying in those crashes.

Visit PennDot’s website and choose “Anti-Texting Law” to learn more information.