Gov. Tom Corbett signed into law legislation that makes Pennsylvania the 35th state in the nation to enact mobile texting bans for drivers of all vehicles, including school buses.
The new law makes texting while driving a primary offense, which means officers can make a traffic stop based on specific driver behavior, and takes effect in March 2012. All drivers, including those operating a school bus, who are cited by law enforcement face a $50 fine per offense.
The Insurance Institute on Highway Safety notes on its website that Pennsylvania is one of 31 states that do not have specific bans of cell phone usage by school bus drivers. While the new law covers texting for all drivers, the state remains one of 35 states that has yet to pass a law banning hand-held cell phones. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's School Bus Manual does not specifically speak to cell phone use but does contain a chapter on the importance of drivers' concentration and attention while behind the wheel.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, nearly 5,500 people were killed and 450,000 were injured in 2009 after being involved in crashes caused by a distracted driver.
"I wish I could say that with a stroke of a pen we'll be able to make driving safer, but it's not that simple," said Gov. Corbett during a legislation signing ceremony in Harrisburg.