You hear it all the time. You see the commercials. Don’t text and drive. There is a reason why that message is everywhere: it is because it should be followed. At the time, it seems harmless and not a big deal, but it could impact you and your loved ones in an instant. Simply, the benefits of texting and driving are heavily outweighed by the potential costs. Pennsylvania has a statute that forbids texting while driving. According to 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3316, texting while driving is prohibited and anyone who violates the applicable statute is subject to a fine. Specifically, 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3316 proclaims:
Prohibition.-- No driver shall operate a motor vehicle on a highway or trafficway in this Commonwealth while using an interactive wireless communications device to send, read or write a text-based communication while the vehicle is in motion. A person does not send, read or write a text-based communication when the person reads, selects or enters a telephone number or name in an interactive wireless communications device for the purpose of activating or deactivating a voice communication or a telephone call.
Seizure.-- The provisions of this section shall not be construed as authorizing the seizure or forfeiture of an interactive wireless communications device, unless otherwise provided by law.
Penalty.--A person who violates subsection (a) commits a summary offense and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of $50.
Preemption of local ordinances.-- In accordance with section 6101 (relating to applicability and uniformity of title), this section supersedes and preempts all ordinances of any municipality with regard to the use of an interactive wireless communications device by the driver of a motor vehicle.
Definition.-- As used in this section, the term “text-based communication” means a text message, instant message, electronic mail or other written communication composed or received on an interactive wireless communications device.
75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3316. Upon reading the statute, it is clear that text-based communication is not limited to just cellular phones. The statute forbids texting on “an interactive wireless communications device,” which encompasses a broader scope of devices than just a cellular phone. Also, the statute defines “text-based communication” as including “text message, instant message, electronic mail or other written communication composed or received on an interactive wireless communications device.” This language indicates that text-based communication is more than just standard text messages. Although 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 3316 provides the prohibition on texting while driving, there is the potential the law could change to ban the use of mobile phones while driving in Pennsylvania. The next time you get the urge to send a text message while you’re driving, remember that it can wait until you reach your destination.