State Reps. William C. Kortz II and Martin Michael Schmotzer appeared at a news conference this past week at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC in support of legislation that would ban Pennsylvania drivers from talking on hand-held cellphones while driving.
Their bill would mirror the state's new texting ban with regard to enforcement and penalties. The use of a hand-held cell phone while driving would become a primary offense with a $50 fine, or a $100 fine if driving in a school zone, work zone or highway safety corridor.
Exceptions to the ban would include drivers using GPS devices, when their vehicles are stopped due to traffic obstructions and when initiating phone calls.
The bill would also require the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to develop a public education campaign to warn of the dangers of distracted driving.
"Using a hand-held cellphone while driving is very distracting for drivers and poses safety hazards for them and other motorists," said Schmotzer, a Democrat whose 22nd House District of Pennsylvania includes all of Baldwin Township and part of Whitehall Borough, in a news release. "Just like texting while driving has been banned in Pennsylvania, so too should the use of hand-held cellphones.
"It's a safety issue, pure and simple."
"Our current ban on texting while driving is a step in the right direction," Markosek said, "but it is woefully inadequate to protect people from drivers distracted by hand-held devices.
"During back-to-school time, it is important to remember that driver distractions lead to unnecessary deaths. Sadly, the doctors and nurses here at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh see too many young people killed by car accidents each year."
According to PennDOT's estimates, more than 14,200 crashes in Pennsylvania in 2011 involved a distracted driver, with 58 people losing their lives in those crashes.
Currently, 10 states ban the use of hand-held cellphones by drivers, including PA neighbors New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Maryland. Thirty-two states ban all cellphone use by teen drivers.