Distracted Driving Laws in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania distracted driving presents various concerns and will often lead to legal action against the offending driver. Distracted driving facts show that fatal accidents resulting from distractions behind the wheel are one of the state’s biggest driving-related concerns, causing 61 fatal accidents and more than 16,000 total crashes in 2016 alone. Drivers must know the potential driving distractions they may face in order to prevent disastrous outcomes and drive safely on public roads.
The following sections discuss various traffic violations and their respective traffic fines. They also review how drivers may reduce distractions on the road. While facts about distracted driving indicate that younger drivers are more easily distracted than older drivers, all drivers must be aware of the dangers of distractions on the road and their exposure to them. The number of distractions drivers may encounter are immeasurable, but they all have similar features and endanger the safety of drivers, passengers and pedestrians. Read on to learn more about the importance of improving your driving in order to avoid driver’s license points and other problems.
What is distracted driving in Pennsylvania?
Distracted driving, defined as driving without full attention on the road, can occur anytime drivers remove their hands from the steering wheel or look away for a moment. In those moments, distracted driving accidents are up to eight times as likely as normal. However, not paying attention while driving can mean more than texting, since any other activity they engage in while driving increases the risk of crashes. A list of common driving distractions drivers may be tempted to participate in is as follows:
- Eating, drinking or smoking
- Adjusting the radio, CD or cassette player
- Talking to passengers, other drivers or pedestrians
- Texting and driving
- Reading or writing
- Talking on a phone
- Interacting with items inside the vehicle
- Personal grooming (e.g., putting on makeup)
Regardless of the distracted driving laws in PA that may make an activity legal, all distractions should be taken seriously.
Distracted Driving Laws in Pennsylvania for Handheld Devices
The distracted driving law in PA requires drivers to refrain from using handheld devices for written communication. Texting while driving, instant messaging, emailing and all other forms of text-based communication are prohibited. Below are some distracted driving facts that pertain to the law against handheld devices:
- Handheld devices, may be a cellphone, personal digital assistant, smartphone, portable or mobile computer other small electronic devices.
- These electronic devices may not be used while a vehicle is in motion.
- All local ordinances submit to state law against using these types of devices while driving.
However, distracted driving legislation allows the use of hands-free or voice-controlled devices, such as some GPS systems.
Texting and Driving Laws in Pennsylvania
Texting and driving laws in PA ban drivers from texting as a primary offense. In an attempt to stop distracted driving from occurring, law enforcement officers may pull over and cite drivers suspected of inattentive driving via texting, but they are not permitted to confiscate a handheld device.
However, texting and driving restrictions have a few exceptions. Drivers may not receive a distracted driving ticket if one of the following situations apply to them:
- Drivers are stopped at a traffic signal or sign.
- Drivers are trying to contact emergency services.
- Drivers are using devices in accordance with their professional duties.
Pennsylvania Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers
Because novice drivers have not fully developed their safety judgement when driving, distracted driving rates are higher for the population of drivers than any other. Novice drivers (i.e., drivers younger than 18 years old) are unable to text and drive or use their phones for voice communication in Pennsylvania. Thus, novice drivers and those with learner’s permits cannot operate handheld or hands-free devices.
Pennsylvania Distracted Driving Regulations for CDL Holders
Those with commercial driving licenses (CDL) are subject to the same distracted driving laws that prevent other drivers from communicating via text on their handheld devices. The types of driving distractions CDL holders may be penalized for do not include the use of devices affixed to mass transit vehicles, buses or school buses. However, the laws against distracted driving for CDL holders are enforced differently.
Distracted Driving Penalties in Pennsylvania
Distracted driving offenders will receive a summary of their offenses and the ability to contest the charges in court. Distracted driving penalties for offenders involve a fine and the cost of court fees, but no penalty points will be added to driving records. Commercial drivers, however, will have a non-sanction violation added to their driving records.
Note: These consequences may vary depending on the severity and frequency of the offense.
Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving in Pennsylvania
While learning facts about distracted driving may deter some drivers from committing these violations, the best way to prevent distractions while driving is to be safe and alert. The following list offers advice on how to remain focused on the act of driving:
- Prepare for your drive. Program your favorite radio stations, finish getting ready and place all pets in carriers before you start driving to avoid unnecessary stress and distractions.
- Remain focused. Avoid cell phone use while driving by turning off your devices or enabling do not disturb functions and keep your eyes on the road. Do not read signs or watch outside activity for extended periods.
- Communicate with your passengers. Ask your children and passengers to be respectful of your driving and consider enlisting a passenger to help you navigate and find items in the vehicle.
- If you cannot wait, pull over. Stop the vehicle before responding to important messages or phone calls. While it may be legal to text at stop lights, it can endanger your safety and the safety of your passengers.
- Recognize when rest is needed. Take breaks from driving if you are driving for long periods.