What Are Pennsylvania's Cell Phone Driving Laws?

texting while driving

Most states have laws regarding cell phone use while driving. This is largely because driver inattention is one of the leading causes of auto accidents in the United States. In fact, around 10% of the more than 10,000 yearly distracted driving crashes in Pennsylvania are caused by the use of handheld cell phones.

Pennsylvania’s cell phone driving laws are meant to discourage and penalize distracted drivers, bringing these figures down.

Why Are Pennsylvania Cell Phone Driving Laws Necessary?

When a driver’s full attention is not on the road, this affects reaction time and overall driving behavior. It only takes a second or two for a driver to make a mistake that causes a catastrophic accident. Swerving out of a lane, not stopping in time, running through a stop sign, or not seeing a pedestrian in a crosswalk—these are all examples of what can happen when a driver is distracted.

Cell phones are particularly dangerous because they take mental and physical attention from the road. A distracted driver is thinking about texting or looking at an image on social media, not about driving. A distracted driver’s eyes are not on the road and one or even both hands are not on the wheel when responding to a text or scrolling through an email.

Pennsylvania cell phone driving laws are necessary because drivers have a history of using cell phones when they should have their attention on the road.

A Background of Cell Phone Driving Laws in Pennsylvania

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) first began enforcing cell phone driving laws back in 2011, when Senate Bill 314 was signed by the Pennsylvania governor. It banned the use of interactive wireless communication devices while driving. Later, specifications were made to ban texting as well.

Since then, revisions to the law have increased the punishments for violating these laws, particularly if people are seriously injured or killed in accidents with a driver who was texting or using a cell phone at the time of the collision.

In November 2016, Governor Tom Wolf signed Daniel’s Law, which enforces stricter penalties for texting while driving offenses. This legislation provides 2-year sentences for texting while driving that causes serious injury to another person, and 5-year sentences for causing another’s death due to texting while driving. It was named after Daniel Gallatin, a volunteer firefighter who was struck and killed by a woman who was texting while driving an SUV.

Daniel Gallatin spent 40 years of his life as a volunteer firefighter, including 12 as chief. He was riding his motorcycle when a woman who was texting while driving struck him with her SUV and took his life. She plead guilty to texting while driving, reckless driving, and involuntary manslaughter but was sentenced to just 23 months in county jail and a $250 fine. She petitioned for parole a mere two months later. Daniel’s family saw the inadequacies in Pennsylvania’s cell phone driving laws and got to work—finally getting House Bill 853 signed into law two years after their loss.

Violators of Daniel’s Law, even if they cause no injury to another person, may be fined $50 and have points added to their driving records, which can lead to license suspension and other penalties. If you need to use your phone, your safest bet is to pull over or wait until you reach your destination (as shown by the National Safety Council). 

Cell Phone Violations Are Enforced as Primary Laws

In Pennsylvania, cell phone violations are enforced as primary laws. This means an officer can pull a person over for texting or using a handheld device without a need for any other violation. If an officer sees a person looking at his or her phone while driving, he has the authority to pull that person over and issue a citation if they violated the law.

Talk to an Injury Lawyer Today

If you were injured by a distracted driver who was texting or talking on a cell phone, contact one of our experienced car accident attorneys at (888) 498-3023. We have more than 100 years of collective experience getting people the compensation they deserve for injuries and illnesses sustained in car crashes, workplace accidents, and due to defective products. We know Pennsylvania’s cell phone driving laws inside and out and understand how to use this knowledge to help our clients get the full and fair recoveries they need to rebuild and move on.

Don’t be a victim of someone else’s negligence. Let our skilled attorneys help. Contact us at (888) 498-3023 or fill out our online form to schedule a case consultation today.

You can also learn more by checking out our PowerPoint presentation on this subject!

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