Distracted drivers, beware: House advances bill to create $200 fine for cell phone use behind the wheel

    The Pennsylvania Turnpike (Douglas Muth/Flickr)

    The legislative gears are again moving to crack down on Pennsylvania’s cell phone-wielding drivers.

    The House Transportation Committee advanced a bill Monday that would create a $200 fine for anyone caught using a hand-held cell phone while driving.

    This isn’t the first time Rep. Rosemary Brown, R-Monroe, has introduced the bill. But she sees Monday’s committee vote just a few months into a new session as a sign the legislation will gain momentum and overcome the skepticism of some lawmakers.

    “The hurdle comes down to sometimes a legislator or their constituents may be saying ‘don’t tell me what to do within my car,'” Brown told the Capital-Star. But, she continued, “it’s one thing to affect your own safety, but to affect others [is] when government needs to be involved.”

    Hands-free use would still be legal, and a violation would not add points to a person’s driver’s license. Police could not ticket a driver for using a phone while at a red light, stop sign, or in traffic.

    Brown said she would prefer for the measure to apply in those instances, but taking them out was a compromise to garner support.

    Leaving out enforcement when a driver is stopped means Pennsylvania will not be eligible for an extra $600,000 in federal transportation funding, according to ranking Transportation Democrat Rep. Mike Carroll, of Luzerne.

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Foundation, distracted drivers killed 3,166 people in 2017.

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