Pennsylvania joins states with texting-while-driving bans

HARRISBURG, Pa Wed Nov 9, 2011 2:02pm EST

Kumar Chinnaswamy texts on his mobile phone while driving in a simulator at the LG booth during the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 7, 2010. REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Kumar Chinnaswamy texts on his mobile phone while driving in a simulator at the LG booth during the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, January 7, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Steve Marcus

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HARRISBURG, Pa (Reuters) - Pennsylvania on Wednesday became the 35th state to ban text messaging while driving.

Governor Tom Corbett signed legislation into law giving police the authority to charge someone caught texting while driving with a primary offense and a $50 fine.

"The urge to keep the conversation going online can cloud judgment, can make it impossible to focus on what (drivers) should be focusing on," said Corbett, who signed the bill into law at an AT&T mobile telephone store in suburban Harrisburg.

Corbett said 13,790 crashes in Pennsylvania were caused in 2010 by distracted driving, which includes more than texting. He said 1,100 of those accidents involved drivers using a handheld cell phone, and 66 people died because they were not paying attention to how they were driving.

"It's hard to argue against the fact that the most distracting thing that you can do behind the wheel is to be texting ... and not paying attention to what you should be paying attention to," he said.

Pennsylvania's new law takes effect in 120 days.

It specifically prohibits all drivers from using an interactive wireless communication device to send, read or write a text-based message. Such messages include text messages, instant messages, email or other written communication, it says.

The law institutes a $50 fine for convictions.

(Reporting by Mark Shade; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Jerry Norton)

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