Pennsylvania’s New Texting Law

New law in Pennsylvania to go into effect on Thursday:

Pennsylvania’s law banning text-messaging while driving will go into effect this Thursday, March 8, 2012.  Essentially this law makes it a summary offense to drive and communicate via text message at the same time.  Violators are looking at a citation for a $50 fine, but as of now, no points to their license. You can read the full text of the statute, Title 75 § 3316 here: Prohibiting text-based communications.

Should you be worried? This charge is going to be hard to enforce by police.  Drivers are still permitted to use their phones to make calls, as well as use their phone’s GPS function, use the internet for non-communication purposes, and even use applications. It will be difficult for an officer to ascertain whether drivers are texting or dialing a phone number, or engaged in some other permitted use.  But, here are a few things to keep in mind: First, officers are not permitted to seize your cell phone.  Secondly, since they cannot seize your phone, even if you have been pulled over, it is questionable at best as to how officers will prove a text message was sent, without an outright confession from the driver or observation from a passenger.

Should you be careful anyway? Probably. Aside from the obvious fact that it’s not safe to type messages and read emails while driving, this new law gives officers authorization to pull you over because it is categorized as a primary offense.  And, once pulled over, if you are found to have violated other laws, you could be facing hefty fines, license suspension or even jail time.  The officer may discover that you were not wearing your seat belt, that you were driving without insurance or on a suspended license, or that any number of other laws have been violated.  Bottom line is this change in the law will provide officers with another traffic violation that gives them authority to pull drivers over.