STATE—A new bill amending Title 75, the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, proposing to restrict the use of mobile phones and other “interactive wireless communication devices,” passed the House of Representatives Transportation Committee on April 30.

Known as the Hands Free Driving bill, House Bill 1684 has been laid on the table to be voted on at a later date.

As listed in Title 75, “interactive wireless communication devices” include: wireless telephones, personal digital assistants, smart phones, portable or mobile computers, and similar devices which can be used for voice communication, texting, emailing, browsing the internet, or instant messaging.

Exclusions to this include navigation and global positioning systems, devices physically integrated into the vehicle and communications devices affixed to school busses and mass transit vehicles.

The Hands Free Driving bill proposes to add hand-held radios to this list provided the person operating the radio holds an amateur radio station license issued by the Federal Communications Commission.

Under prohibitions, House Bill 1684 states, “... no person shall operate a motor vehicle on a highway or trafficway in this Commonwealth while using an interactive wireless communications device while the vehicle is in motion.”

Moreover, drivers under 18 would be prohibited from even using devices with a hands-free accessory, such as a headset which would allow both hands to remain on the steering wheel.

The bill assumes any motorist holding a device in their hands wile driving to be using it in a prohibited manner, but exceptions allow for emergency calls to be made to fire stations, police departments or another “public safety answering point” if the vehicle is not equipped with a hands-free device.

Phone-use violations and interactive wireless communications device violations would each accumulate two points on an individual's driving record.

Violators found guilty would also be subject to a fine of $50 for a first offense and $100 for each guilty offense thereafter.

Additional $25 fines could be added if the driver is also found to be distracted by some other communications, electrical or mechanical device, a personal grooming device, food, drink, or printed material.

The bill proposes to also establish a driver distraction awareness fund, drawn from penalty fines, donations and other grants to provide educational materials to prevent further instances of distracted driving.

These educational materials are also proposed to be mandatory information presented to new drivers seeking a permit.