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Cell Phone Laws: What You Need To Know

Do you know the current cell phone usage laws while driving? Because cell phones are such a daily part of our lives, people are getting more comfortable using their phone while driving. And while the statistics are showing that just because we are getting used to having this technology at our fingertips, it has not made it any safer to look at a screen and drive. We’ll break down the laws for PA and NJ, since each state has it’s own cell usage regulations and consequences.

Pennsylvania Cell Phone Driving Laws

All things considered, Pennsylvania as a state is pretty lenient when it comes to cell phone laws compared to other states across the country. According to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), the state of Pennsylvania does not prohibit the use of handheld cell phones.

Previously, several localities within Pennsylvania including Philadelphia, Erie, Harrisburg, and Wilkes-Barre prohibited handheld cell phones. However, in March 2012, a new statewide texting law superseded (and terminated) local ordinances.

However, this law does make texting and driving illegal. Specifically, this law prohibits the use of any IWCD (Interactive Wireless Communication Device) to communicate while you’re driving. This means that you can’t send, read, or write any type of communication on your cell phone while you’re driving.

While you are technically allowed to have your phone in your hand while you’re driving, this law specifically prohibits you from:

  • Sending and reading text messages
  • Sending and reading social media instant messages
  • Sending and reading emails
  • Scrolling through social media
  • Reading through websites or any kind

Any cellular activity that requires you to type or read while you’re behind the wheel is not allowed. The only things you’re really allowed to do on your phone while you’re behind the wheel of your car are to make phone calls and follow GPS navigation.

When you need to get in touch with someone, call—don’t text. Otherwise, leave your phone in your pocket, the cupholder, or on the front passenger’s seat.

Consequences for Texting  & Driving in Pennsylvania

In terms of what happens if you’re pulled over for texting a driving, you’ll be subject to a fine of $50 which doesn’t include potential court costs and other fees. According to the DMV, “The violation carries no points as a penalty and will not be recorded on the driver record for non-commercial drivers. It will be recorded on commercial drivers’ records as a non-sanction violation.”

This law also does not authorize police to seize your cell phone or other IWCD if you’re pulled over for texting and driving. If they ask for your cell phone, you are not obligated to give it to them under Pennsylvania law. A police officer who has pulled you over for texting and driving cannot take or investigate your cell phone without your consent.

New Jersey Cell Phone Driving Laws

New Jersey is stricter than Pennsylvania when it comes to using phones while driving. Like the state of Pennsylvania, the state of New Jersey prevents drivers from texting while driving. As with the Pennsylvania laws, “texting” is a blanket term for all varieties of reading and communicating through typing via your cell phone.

Unlike Pennsylvania, however, the state of New Jersey prohibits any use of a handheld cell phone. This means that, in order to use your cell phone while you’re behind the wheel, you’ll need to use a mounting device on your dashboard or in your air vent.

Even with your phone in this mount, you can’t text. However, this mount will enable you to make hands-free and legal phone calls as well as follow GPS navigation.

The only time a hand-held phone may be used from behind the wheel of a vehicle in the state of New Jersey is if it is an emergency. Emergencies that you can use your cell phone for when you’re driving include medical emergencies, collisions, confrontations with aggressive and potentially dangerous drivers, and the like.

Consequences for Texting & Driving in New Jersey

The consequences for texting and driving in the state of New Jersey are quite a bit steeper than they are in Pennsylvania. As of July 1st, 2014, anyone who is pulled over for using their hand-held wireless communication device for any reason are subject to fines and points.

First-time offenders will face a fine of $200–$400. The fine associated with a second offense will increase to $400–$600 and drivers who are caught a third time or more will face a fine of $600–$800. Also, beginning with the third offense, there will be three (3) points assessed to the driver’s record and there may be a 90-day driver license suspension as well.

Drive Safely!

We hope that this guide gave you all the information you were looking for in terms of the cell phone driving laws in your state. The best thing you can do no matter where you drive is to tuck your cell phone away and stay 100% focused on the road in front of you when you’re the one driving.