As of March 1, 2012, in Pennsylvania, if you text while you are operating a moving vehicle, you are committing a primary offense. A primary offense means that a police officer can pull you over if he observes you committing the offense. The fine is $50.
For a press release on the legislation see here. Governor Corbett notes that if you need to text, you should pull over and park your car. The law covers reading or writing any text based message, which would include texts, email, instant messaging, etc. It also includes surfing the web, as most attorneys read it.
It seems to me as if it is illegal to send a text or email via hands free technology as well. The law doesn’t specifically say anything about hand held texting, it speaks to texting period. Is that how other people are reading it? That seems illogical to me. If I can pick up my phone and dial a number, or have a conversation on my phone, why can’t I use my bluetooth to compose and/or listen to a text or email?
Unfortunately, I see this law causing some problems because it is vague and will be a bit difficult to enforce. How will an officer know if someone is quickly dialing a phone number or changing the song on his phone? Pennsylvania doesn’t require hands-free phone use in general and it will be hard for police to tell the difference, I imagine.
All the same, only a fool texts while driving, something most people know. Unfortunately, when it comes to texting and driving, while most people know it is dangerous, a lot of people still do it. A fact supported by numerous studies and reported in articles such as this one from the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Regardless of my concerns as to the specifics of the law and its enforcement, maybe the ban will encourage people to put their phones down while the car is moving. One can only hope. But I think the law needs to be a bit more clear as to what is covered and to address the hands free issue.