Shapiro signs Paul Miller’s bill allowing police to ticket distracted drivers using handheld devices

Nearly 12 years after a grieving mother approached state Sen. Rosemary Brown at a community meeting and asked her to support tougher distracted driving laws, Gov. Josh Shapiro signed a ban on the employ of handheld electronic devices behind the wheel on Wednesday.

Eileen Miller’s 21-year-old son was killed in 2010 when a distracted truck driver crossed the median of a highway in Monroe County and hit his car. Brown (R-Monroe), who was a fresh state representative at the time, said Miller’s tears and determination galvanized her to continue pushing the legislation through six legislative sessions.

“I knew it was the right thing to do,” Brown said during Wednesday’s signing ceremony at the Pennsylvania Capitol. “I also knew that it was absolutely necessary to make every effort to change the behavior of drivers using a mobile phone behind the wheel to prevent accidents.”

The fresh law, named after Miller’s son, Paul Miller Jr., allows police to stop and ticket drivers caught using handheld smartphones, tablets and other devices. It will come into force in a year, but for the first year the police will issue warnings. This offense is punishable by a $50 fine.

“I’m done with it, Paul,” Eileen Miller said, recalling the promise she made to her son when she identified his body. “It’s not just about Paul. “This is a message to every family in Pennsylvania that they don’t have to have state police knocking on their door and telling them their loved one was killed by something preventable like impaired driving.”

The bill, the 29th such measure in the nation, also requires state and municipal police in cities with at least 5,000 residents to collect data on a driver’s race, ethnicity, gender and age and other details during a traffic stop.

This amendment to the Brown Act, passed in the House of Representatives in April, was a priority of the Legislative Black Caucus, said Chairman Napoleon Nelson (D-Montgomery). The reporting requirement increases transparency and ensures that police taking action to ensure road safety “do not do so at the risk of marginalized communities”.

Legislative efforts to prevent distracted driving began before Paul Miller Jr.’s death, Shapiro said before signing the bill. In 2008, Jacy Good was returning home with her parents after graduating from Muhlenberg College when a distracted driver hit their car with a tractor-trailer.

Shapiro said Good’s parents died and she was left permanently disabled. Good’s meeting convinced him to sponsor legislation to end distracted driving. And although Pennsylvania passed ban on texting while driving in 2012, other smartphone uses remained legal.

“People like Jacy and Eileen believed and never, ever gave up. And thank God they didn’t. Because of their determination, we are all prosperous,” Shapiro said, noting that the 11,000 distracted-related crashes in Pennsylvania last year exceeded the number of crashes involving alcohol.

Shapiro said that in states that have adopted similar bans, distracted driving crashes have dropped significantly.

Rep. Donna Bullock (Philadelphia), former chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said renewed efforts to pass impaired driving laws coincided with a nationwide focus on police shootings and other incidents resulting from traffic stops involving people of color. black and brown.

Bullock said she noticed Massachusetts, where state officials conducted a pilot study to examine whether distracted driving laws could potentially boost pretextual traffic stops based on a driver’s race or color.

“We found … that we couldn’t do the pilot because we didn’t have statewide collection, coordinated collection of police data or traffic stop data,” Bullock said.

The amendment championed by Bullock and Nelson would hold police accountable for providing data to improve public safety, Shapiro said, adding that it is an example of what Democrats and Republicans can accomplish when they join forces to “a little bit improve the lives of Pennsylvanians.” “

“Compromise is how we make our roads safer,” Shapiro said. “Compromise is how we hear the prayers of mothers that will ultimately save the lives of other children across the Commonwealth. Compromise is the way to achieve a goal.”

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