Drivers texting in Pa. now face fines

A sign on the Camden side of the Ben Franklin Bridge warned drivers yesterday entering the city of the new law.

Philly drivers, you can take your cell phones back out — but only for talking.

A state ban on texting while driving went into effect today, superseding a 2-year-old city ban on any use of cell phones while driving. In other words, you can now go back to enjoying a phone conversation while driving on city streets, a police spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.

“Your most important job when behind the wheel is to focus only on driving. Most people would never close their eyes for five seconds while driving, but that’s how long you take your eyes off the road — or even longer — every time you send or read a text message,” state Transportation secretary Barry Schoch, said in a press release. “It’s not just your own life you’re risking; it’s the lives and safety of every motorist around you.”

The texting while driving law isn’t the first state legislation to weaken a Philadelphia statute. Over the past two-plus decades, a couple attempts to strength gun control locally have failed because of state “pre-emption” laws.

Former state Rep. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat from Montgomery County, pushed for years for the state ban on texting while driving, eventually getting enough of his Republican counterparts to sign on after hounding fellow lawmakers with statistics about distracted driving. In the years since he started his crusade, many other states passed similar laws. Pennsylvania is the 38th state to adopt a texting ban.


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