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PA Cell Phone Texting Law

Illegal to Text Message While Driving in Pennsylvania


A ban on text messaging while driving in the state of Pennsylvania was approved by Gov. Tom Corbett in November 2011, and took effect beginning March 8, 2012.

Effective Date: March 8, 2012

Fines: $50

Enforcement: Under SB 314, text messaging while behind the wheel is subject to primary enforcement, which allows law officers to stop and cite offenders for that reason alone. Many feel this will be very difficult to enforce as the ban does not extend to use of cell phones for calls, music, or GPS, making it hard for police to determine whether a driver is text messaging, or doing something else such as placing a phone call or checking voice mail.

Details: The Pennsylvania texting while driving ban:

  • Prohibits as a primary offense all drivers from using an Interactive Wireless Communication Device (IWCD) to send, read or write a text-based message.

  • Defines an IWCD as a wireless phone, personal digital assistant, smart phone, portable or mobile computer or similar devices that can be used for texting, instant messaging, emailing or browsing the Internet.

  • Defines a text-based message as a text message, instant message, email or other written communication composed or received on an IWCD.

  • Makes it clear that this law supersedes and preempts any local ordinances restricting the use of interactive wireless devices by drivers, which includes local bans currently in place in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and other Pennsylvania communities.

Exceptions: The Pennsylvania cell phone texting ban does not extend to situations where the vehicle is not moving, such as at a stop light or while you are stopped in traffic. It also allows for using a phone hands-free through integration with bluetooth (such as using Siri on the iPhone to oompose and send texts). Interestingly, since the ban overrides any local ordinances already in place, it will actually reduce cell phone restrictions in cities such as Philadelphia, where a local law bans all handheld cell phone use.

Nationwide Cell Phone & Texting Laws
In addition to Pennsylvania, text messaging is banned for all drivers (as of February 2012) in 34 states and the District of Columbia. Seven additional states (Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia) specifically ban novice drivers.
Governors Highway Safety Association: Cell Phone and Texting Laws

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