HARRISBURG (KDKA) — Texting while driving is an absolute no-no in Pennsylvania.
But up until now, drivers have been allowed to talk on cell phones.
That may not last much longer.
“We have a tremendous amount of cell phone use that is happening in the car, behind the wheel,” PA Rep. Rosemary Brown, a Monroe County Republican, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Thursday.
Brown’s bill to ban hand-held cell phone use by drivers passed the state House of Representatives, an action already taken by 20 other states.
“We have been legislatively behind in our efforts as a state,” said Brown.
Under her bill, drivers could use cell phones for GPS or to plug into a Bluetooth system, and they could use the speaker on their phone as long as they don’t touch the phone while driving.
“Keep two hands on the wheel, two eyes on the road, and your mind on the task as much as possible,” Brown said.
PA Rep. Josh Kail, a Beaver Republican, was one of 70 representatives who voted ‘no.’
“I just think the law was just a little bit too intrusive,” said Kail.
Kail said there’s a lot of reasons a driver needs the phone, like getting lost or in emergencies.
Opponents did manage to make use of a cell phone while driving a secondary offense, which, Kail says, “means that you cannot be pulled over for talking on the phone. But if you are pulled over for some other reason and you were talking on the phone, it can be tacked on, very similar to the seat belt rule.”
The vote on the bill split across party lines, with Republicans and Democrats both voting for and against it.
And some of those who voted against it told KDKA they just thought the bill was too weak.
“This was a step back from current law in Pennsylvania,” PA Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, a Brighton Heights Democrat, told KDKA’s Jon Delano.
The bill not only made cell phone talking a secondary offense, but it also reduced the penalty for texting while driving from a primary to a secondary offense.
“When you’re driving, I don’t think you should be doing anything, quite honestly, whether it be talking or be texting,” said Ravenstahl.
The bill now goes to the state Senate.