A bill has been passed by the Senate in Pennsylvania that aims to ban motorists from texting while driving. This approval was for an amended version of a bill that was passed in June. It has now been sent to Governor Tom Corbett to sign, and then 120 days after that, the state will join 34 other states in the US that impose a ban like this. Governor’s office spokesman Gary Miller said that a final review will be conducted before the governor signs the bill.
The bill makes texting while driving a primary offence, which means that police can pull over a driver that they see texting on the road. It had initially called for the act to be enforced as a secondary offence, which would have meant motorists would only get a ticket after having an accident or being stopped for another primary offence. Of the other 34 states and the District of Columbia that have passed the ban as well, 31 of them enforce it as a primary offence. The bill also bans writing and reading while driving.
Supporters have seen the passage of the bill as a victory, even though a provision that would also ban drivers for talking on mobile phones without a hands-free device was stripped out. Senator John Wozniak said that a driver who kills someone because they didn’t have control of their vehicle while they were texting would have to live with that for the rest of their life. Rep. Josh Shapiro, who sponsored the primary offence amendment to the bill and has sponsored many other bills to ban using mobile phones while driving, said that the approval is a big win for safety in the state. After fighting for seven years, they finally passed a ban on texting while driving and made it a primary offence. This bill is the strongest possible, he added.
Meanwhile, Governor Corbett signed another bill into law last week aimed at teen driver safety. The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Kathy Watson, requires that passengers under the age of 18 have to wear a seat belt, while the youngest passengers in a vehicle are restrained in a booster or child safety seat. Not complying with the law results in a primary offense. According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, fatal crashes involving teen drivers aged 16 and 17 were up 43% last year from 40 in 2009 to 57. Watson’s office notes that over half of teen driver and passenger deaths are due to them not wearing their seatbelts.
The law also requires that only one, non-family passenger under the age of 18 can be in a vehicle operated by a teen during the first six months that they have their official licence. After that, the driver is limited to only have three non-family passengers under the age of 18 in their vehicle until they turn 18. Aside from these provisions, the bill also raises the amount of time teens have to train behind-the-wheel with a learner’s permit from 50 to 65 hours. Ten of these hours have to be logged at night and five have to be logged during severe weather.
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