On November 1, 2011, the Pennsylvania Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation that prohibits motorists from sending, receiving, or reading text messages while driving. The measure sailed through the House, and the Senators voted, 45-5, to send it to Governor Corbett, who is expected to sign it.
Governor Corbett has spoken harshly about seeing drivers navigating their vehicles while their eyes are glued to a cell phone screen. The measure makes it a "primary offense" to send, receive, or read a text message while operating a vehicle, meaning a police officer can stop and ticket a driver seen using a texting device. Sponsors said it should increase traffic safety by making motorists keep their eyes on the road, not on their texts.
"Texting is one of the most dangerous and deadly forms of distracted driving," said Senator Robert Tomlinson (R-6, Bucks), who introduced the measure. "You definitely have to take your eyes off the road to look at your texting device."
The bill sets a $50 penalty for texting while driving. The ban is to take effect 120 days after Corbett signs the measure.
Originally, texting while driving was to be a secondary offense, meaning a police officer could cite a driver for it only if the motorist had been stopped for another offense, such as speeding or running a red light.
Nine states ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving, and 34 states have banned texting while driving.