OMG! Pa. texting law will erase Philly cell-phone ban
December 26, 2011By Tom MacDonald
A state law banning texting while driving actually might put cell phones back into the hands of Philadelphia drivers in a few months.
On March 8, the state rules prohibiting you from sending text messages while behind the wheel go into effect.
But that law will supersede a stricter, two-year-old city ordinance that bans all handheld cell phone use.
That has Councilman Bill Green, author of the city ban, pretty upset. The way the state law is written, he says, you can hold and manipulate your phone without penalty.
"That's when the danger occurs, when you are looking down to try to text or e-mail or anything else," Green said. "The Philly ban was very clear if you are holding your cell phone in your hand, no matter what you are doing with it, that was a violation of the law. It was simple and easy to enforce."
Under the city ban, almost 30 thousand tickets have been issued. Green thinks that was beginning to change behavior: "People were understanding when you were in Philadelphia, you cannot talk on your cell phone."
Green says the new state law will not be enforceable since using a phone for everything but texting will be allowed. Police, he says, will have no way of knowing whether a driver is texting, or doing something else.
Eventually, he fears, Philly-area drivers will revert to old habits.
Spokespeople for cell phone services could not be reached for comment.