As some of Pennsylvania’s elected officials attempt to pass a new bill in the state’s congress, the public is regarding it is as nothing more than a rumor. New Jersey has had a law since 2004 penalizing drivers for using hand-held devices such as cell phones while driving. New Jersey was not alone in the driving restriction, New York and Washington, D.C. joined in the same year. So now, three years later, why are Pennsylvania’s attempts to enforce a similar law being rejected as mere rumor?
As of Oct. 14, the Associated Press reported that “had such a bill been enacted, it would have been huge news.” The rumor, however, is huge news.
The ban, slated to take place as of Nov. 10, 2007, according to the false information, has not yet been passed in the state’s legislature. The rumor was spread primarily through a professional-looking flier of an unknown origin, according to multiple news sources.
Representative Josh Shapiro of Montgomery County has been pushing a bill for over a year that would restrict drivers from using hand-held devices. The bill is based on particularities; for example, whether a driver is using their hands while talking on a phone compared to a driver talking on a phone with a headset.
If eventually passed, the bill would fine drivers for using a hand-held device while driving unless in an emergency situation. The bill would potentially affect commuter students that need to drive to campus on a daily basis moreso than students that live on campus or in the nearby area.
Jason Mandroc is one such student. In his final semester at WCU, his commute is only about 20 minutes, but he still spends a fair amount of time in the car between driving to school and his job.
“I make it a point not to talk while driving. With how busy roads can be around here I think it is fine for people to have a headset,” Mandroc said.
He also drives a vehicle with manual transmission, making it “next to impossible” for him to drive while holding the phone.
“There’s proof that shows phones can cause accidents. There’s a law against drinking and driving,” Mandroc said. “So a law against phones makes sense. When it comes to the common safety of everybody, you need to exercise judgment,” he said in regards to how the ban could be viewed as an infringement on personal rights.
The bill for a cell phone ban has joined the push for a state-wide smoking ban in the state congress. Montgomery County Sate Senator, Stewart Greenleaf, has been hoping for legislation to pass that would ban smoking in the work place and any public area. While Philadelphia instituted a law that bans smoking from many bars and restaurants, the bill has met resistance from tobacco lobbyists that do not want to see the ban spread state-wide.
While Pennsylvania is not yet ready to pass a ban on cell phones, California has already done even more by passing a law that specifically targets teenagers that are seen using phones while driving.
The coming months may or may not force drivers to make a choice among talking, texting or receiving a $50 fine in this state.
Shane Madden is a fourth-year student majoring in history with a minor in journalism. He can be reached SM590676@wcupa.edu.