Staying off your smartphone behind the wheel is an important step in preventing serious auto accidents. In response to this significant public health risk, Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering distracted driving laws for state motorists. Currently, Pennsylvania is one of the few neighboring states that allow drivers to talk on the phone while operating a motor vehicle.

Learn more about House Bill 37, which received approval from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives in early 2020 and is currently under review by the state Senate.

Provisions of the law

If the bill passes the Senate, the new law will bar Pennsylvania drivers from handheld cell phone use behind the wheel. Adult drivers can still use their devices with hands-free technology such as Bluetooth. However, the bill prohibits drivers younger than 18 from both wireless and handheld device use while driving and while behind the wheel of a stopped vehicle.

Adult drivers may use their phones when safely stopped off the road, to navigate with GPS if the phone is on a docking station and to call first responders in an emergency. Cell phone use will constitute a secondary offense, which means drivers can only receive a citation if law enforcement stops them for a primary traffic offense, such as speeding. Currently, texting while driving is a primary offense in Pennsylvania, which would change under House Bill 37.

Penalties for distracted driving

Cell phone use behind the wheel in Pennsylvania may result in a fine up to $200. The current fine for texting while driving, which is against the law in the state, is $50.

Even though state law currently allows drivers to talk on a handheld device behind the wheel, doing so puts you and others on the road at risk for significant injury. According to data from the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, more than 2,800 distracted driving fatalities occurred across the United States in 2018 alone.