Pennsylvania’s state Senate has approved legislation that aims to expand the ban on texting while driving and increase penalties for using cell phones while driving for any activity. The bill, which was approved by a vote of 37-11, will now be sent to the state House of Representatives. Pennsylvania initially banned texting while driving in 2012, with a fine of $50 for this offense. The new legislation prohibits motorists from using their cell phones to make calls or engage in any other function while driving, including when stopped in traffic or at a red light.

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However, the legislation allows drivers to push a single button to start or end a phone conversation if the phone is within easy reach, as well as use it for navigation or listening to music.

PA Capitol

FILE – Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., on April 4, 2022. The Legislature’s upper chamber has approved a measure imposing significant legal consequences on a broadened range of distracted driving offenses. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

A first offense under the new legislation carries a fine of $150. The bill includes exceptions for emergency responders and individuals making 911 calls. Offenders who cause serious accidents could face increased prison time.

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In cases where the offender is convicted of homicide by vehicle, a court could impose an additional sentence of up to five years. If convicted of aggravated assault by vehicle, a court could impose an additional sentence of up to two years.

The bill also allows for a one-year grace period during which drivers would only receive written warnings for violations. Additionally, the legislation requires driving tests to include a question about the effects of distracted driving and mandates that student driving manuals include a section on distracted driving and the associated penalties.

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