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Bogus Legislative Brief - Pennsylvania Driver Cell Phone Use

Email, purporting to be a Legislative Brief, claims that drivers in the state of Pennsylvania will be prohibited from using handheld mobile telephones from November 10, 2007 (Full commentary below).


Example:(Submitted, October 2007)
Legislative Brief
Handheld Mobile Telephone Use
State of Pennsylvania

Effective November 10, 2007 motorists in the state of Pennsylvania will be prohibited from using handheld mobile telephones while operating a vehicle. The Bill (House Bill No.1827) amends Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statues and was passed on September 11, 2007.

The Bill states that "No driver shall operate any moving vehicle on a highway of this Commonwealth, which shall include Federal, State and municipal highways, while using a handheld mobile telephone."

The term "handheld mobile telephone" is defined by the bill as:

"A mobile telephone other than a hands-free mobile telephone with which a user engages in a call using at least one hand."

It also defines hands-free mobile telephone as follows:

"A mobile telephone that has an internal feature or function, or that is equipped with an attachment or addition, whether or not permanently part of such mobile telephone, by which a user engages in a call without the use of either hand, whether or not the use of either hand is necessary to activate, deactivate or initiate a function of such telephone."

The new law does not apply, however to the following, when on duty and acting in their official capacities:
*Law Enforcement Officers
* Operators of Emergency Vehicles

The bill also mentions that defensible actions for the use of a handheld mobile telephone will be:
* The driver had reason to fear for the driver's safety
* Reporting a traffic accident
* Making a "911" emergency call

A person who is found to be in violation of this section commits a summary offense and upon conviction, will be sentenced to pay a $50 fine.

Screen shot of PDF version
Pennsylvania Mobile Telephone Use

According to this message, which is circulating via email and online, a new law prohibiting the use of mobile phones while driving in the American state of Pennsylvania will come into effect on November 10, 2007. The message most commonly arrives as an official-looking PDF document purporting to be a "legislative brief". The "brief" outlines the details of the new law and warns that drivers will face fines of $50 if caught using a cell phone while driving after 10th November.

However, the information in the message is untrue - at least for now. The message claims that a bill implementing the cell phone ban was passed on September 11, 2007. In fact, no law banning drivers from using cell phones has yet been passed in Pennsylvania nor will any such ban come into effect in November 2007. It is unclear who is responsible for the bogus document. However, it was not distributed by government officials.

While the information in this bogus brief is currently untrue, it may actually become true in the future. A bill that would prohibit Pennsylvanians from using cell phones while driving has indeed been proposed and was discussed as part of a "distracted-driver public hearing" by the House Transportation Committee. Except for the inaccurate information about the date that it will come into effect, details of the proposed bill are very similar to those included in the fake brief. House Bill 1827 was referred to the Transportation Committee on September 11 although it has not yet been approved by the General Assembly.

If passed, the law would come into effect 60 days later. But, at this point, there is no guarantee that the proposal will ever become law. Even if it does, the ban will certainly not come into effect by 10th November 2007. Thus, for now, Pennsylvania drivers need not take heed of the information in this bogus brief, which is, at best, seriously premature.

That said, several other American states have already enacted cell phone laws for drivers as has a number of other countries, including Australia, Britain and Japan, so there is a good possibility that Pennsylvania will follow suit. And statistics gathered around the world indicate that mobile phone use does indeed distract drivers and lead to accidents. Even if no law exists in their jurisdiction, drivers can therefore increase road safety by not using hand-held mobile phones while behind the wheel.

Pa. cell phone law is hoax, for now
House Bill 1827
Cell Phone Driving Laws
Cell-phone-ban e-mail a hoax

Last updated: 16th October 2007
First published: 16th October 2007

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen

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