Police began enforcing Pennsylvania’s texting ban on Thursday which prohibits motorists from reading, typing or sending messages behind the wheel.
The ban is a primary offense, meaning officers can pull someone over just for violating the law. It supersedes the Philadelphia ordinance that went into effect in December 2010 outlawing the use of handheld cell phones by drivers.
While the new legislation is supposed to make the roads safer by cracking down on one of the biggest distractions for motorists, many say it will be hard to enforce because drivers are still allowed to dial and make calls, making it hard for officers to tell if someone is actually texting.
“The law was created by cell phone lobbyists to allow people to be on their phones to allow them to make money on the streets and highways of Philadelphia,” City Councilman Bill Green said during Thursday’s Council session. “There’s blood on their hands.”
Some motorists are glad for the more relaxed law.
“I absolutely like that. I think [talking on the phone while driving] is the lesser of two evils,” said Gladwyne resident Alex Certo-Ware, who works in Philadelphia.
Linda Gonya, who works in Philadelphia but lives in South Jersey, said she expects to see an increase in the number of people talking on their phone.
“I don’t do either, ever,” Gonya said of talking or texting behind the wheel. “I think they’re worse off now because the officers they’re not going to be able to do much about it. … You’re going to see more people on the phone, which means more accidents.”
Lots of tickets by city cops since 2010
Philadelphia’s ordinance also applied to cyclists, rollerbladers and skateboarders. Between December 2010 and March 5, 2012, a total of 31,587 citations had been handed out in the city, police said.
Under the state law, drivers face a $50 fine for each violation.