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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A loophole in Pennsylvania’s texting while driving law makes it nearly unenforceable for police officers.
Distracted driving, primarily because of the use of cellphones, has become a major threat to everyone driving. Attorney General Josh Shapiro says texting in particular has become, “the number one cause of accidents on the roadways.”
During his days in the legislature then Representative Shapiro sponsored a bill which would have banned the use of handheld cellphones in cars.
The bill was amended to the legislation that passed which police say is virtually unenforceable.
The law prohibits texting while the vehicle is moving but it doesn’t prohibit the user from looking up a phone number, dialing, or talking on the phone, or even reading emails, or the internet. It only says you can’t text.
“We’ve made law enforcement’s job harder, “ says Shapiro. “They don’t know if you’re texting or dialing so people have a chance to make an excuse.”
When an officer pulls someone over suspected to texting the only way to prove it is to check the phone. So the officer can politely ask to see the phone but the driver is not required to comply.
So the texting rolls on, and Shapiro says the accident numbers rise. In the event of an accident police officers can subpoena phone records to determine if the driver was texting at the time.
Shapiro says some action is needed in Harrisburg. “I hope that the legislature will revisit it and pass a full ban on the use of hand held cell phones. People need to keep their hands on the wheel, their eyes on the road and drive safely.”
State Representative Joe Markosek who has also advocated banning handheld cellphone use says a total ban may be possible. But he adds it will be difficult to get through the legislature.
Fifteen other states including New York, and New Jersey, plus Washington DC, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands all have total bans on using handheld cellphones in vehicles. A number of other states have partial bans.