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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: January 9, 2019 03:05 PM
From: Representative Rosemary M. Brown
To: All House members
Subject: Hand-Held Ban
Before you read any further, take 3 minutes to watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FczgGotn3iU

Imagine sitting at home on a beautiful summer morning when suddenly, your doorbell rings. It’s two State Police officers and they are asking who your child is, and where they are. Confused and in shock, it finally sinks in. They are here to tell you that your child is no longer alive. Through no fault of their own, a distracted driver crossed multiple lanes of traffic and hit his vehicle head-on, instantly killing him. But how could this be, your child did nothing wrong? They were obeying the law, and understood the dangers of distracted driving… yet, they paid the ultimate price. This is not a fictional story, yet, a reality for 9 families every single day, leaving their loved one’s life story unfinished (3,263 families in 2015).

In the near future, I will be re-introducing legislation prohibiting the use of hand-held interactive wireless communications devices (cellular phones and similar items) while operating a motor vehicle on the roadways of the Commonwealth. This legislation aims to remove the device from the driver’s hands and return their focus to the one and only thing they should be doing: DRIVING!

For members that were here last session, after initially introducing the bill, caucusing and further meetings, the provisions of this legislation were updated to include:
  • Hand-held use is prohibited – Hand’s-free is legal;
  • No points
  • $200 fine
    • $25 to the issuing authority;
    • $175 to the Distracted Driving Awareness Fund to be used for educational purposes;
  • Those under 18, or a permit holder, may not use the device on a roadway, even when the vehicle is stopped, but may use the device if the vehicle is stopped outside of a roadway;
    • Those 18 and over whom possess a valid driver’s license may use the device while the vehicle is stopped;
  • May use the device exclusively for GPS if it is affixed to the vehicles surface and not hand-held;
  • 5-year optional sentence enhancement for those guilty of homicide by vehicle, as well as a violation of the hand-held prohibition during the same incident (mirrors the current texting ban); and
  • A parent or guardian must certify their child has viewed educational material on the dangers of distracted driving prior to them receiving a driver’s license.
In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported there were 3,196 fatal crashes that occurred on U.S. roadways that involved distraction (10% of all fatal crashes). These crashes involved 3,263 distracted drivers, as some crashes involved more than one distracted driver.

In June 2014, the National Safety Council reported that 73% of drivers think that more enforcement of texting laws is needed. And the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety reported that 85% of Americans think that other drivers who talk on cell phones are a threat to safety. Do we not serve the people? Listen to their collective voice. An individual holding their phone and viewing it, is unable to simultaneously watch the road, too. Not only is the driver of that car in jeopardy, every other motorist is, as well. Do you want your child driving on the same roadway as this motorist who continually thrashes about their lane, drifting from side-to-side while overcorrecting into your lane? That swerving driver may get home fine today, but tomorrow it could be your family in the crosshairs of their vehicle.

Also, PennDOT’s Safety Plan for the future includes supporting legislation to address and enforce distracted driving. The Pennsylvania State Police and law enforcement are also supporting this initiative and believe these parameters are necessary for road safety.

The northeastern region of the Unites States including our border states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, Vermont, New Hampshire and West Virginia ALL ban hand-held cell phone use. Representing a district on the border of both New York and New Jersey, I believe it is not only safer but also more consistent for drivers who frequently travel throughout these border states. While it is important to note and educate drivers that distraction is still present with the use of hands-free technology, removing the use of hand-held mobile telephones is a realistic, achievable and crucial step to help minimize this distraction and create safer driving conditions. I hope you will join me in co-sponsoring this legislation.

It's time to put a stop to the distraction. Just because we can stay connected when we drive does not mean that we should. No email, no text, no selfie is worth a human life.

Let’s make a difference in something we all know is a significant safety concern and stop talking about why we can’t do something. Let’s do what we can and get it done!

Thank you for your support and I look forward to working with and crediting each of the cosponsors of this legislation for taking action.

Introduced as HB37