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September 6, 2012 | By | Posted in Legislature

Lawmakers to consider phone ban for drivers

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

HARRISBURG — Driving while using a cell phone or other hand-held device could be prohibited in Pennsylvania.

House Appropriations Minority Chairman Rep. Joseph Markosek, D-Allegheny, announced Thursday that he plans to introduce this proposed ban in the fall.

Barry Ciccocioppo, Markosek’s communications director, said the ban is being introduced to help police enforce the current ban on texting while driving.

“Somebody can have a phone in their hand and say they weren’t texting, they were dialing a number,” he said.

The bill has not yet been circulated for co-sponsorship, but does have support within the Democratic caucus, Ciccocioppo said.

Drivers caught using phones would be fined $50, or $100 if driving in a school zone, work zone or highway safety corridor, said Ciccocioppo, according to current draft legislation.

State Rep. Joseph Markosek

Exceptions to the ban would include drivers using a GPS device.

When Pennsylvania passed its texting-while-driving ban in 2011, some legislators called it over-regulating, while others said it wouldn’t solve the problem.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which studies the nation’s roads, examined states that ban drivers from using hand-held devices to determine if the ban influences driver behavior. It found that driver hand-held phone use was an estimated 24 percent to 76 percent lower in states with the ban than in states without a ban, like New York and Connecticut.

But it also concludes there’s no evidence to show that banning such behavior reduces crashes.

“It’s not clear why bans are not reducing crashes despite reductions in hand-held phone use and texting while driving,” says IIHS on its website. “Further research is needed in order to fully understand this disparity.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation estimates that 58 people were killed last year in more than 14,000 distracted-driving car crashes.

If the law passes, Pennsylvania would join 10 other states with similar bans, including New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Maryland.

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Melissa Daniels is a reporter for PA Independent. She can be reached at 717-350-0962 or Melissa@PAIndependent.com

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