Pennsylvania Driver-Safety Bills Get Initial OK from Lawmakers

Three driver-safety bills passed their first legislative hurdle on Tuesday when they received the OK from the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee.

The bills would establish a $50 fine for distracted driving, would ban motorists from text messaging or sending emails when driving and would add licensing and driving restrictions for 16- and 17-year-old drivers.

They still have to get approval from the full House and Senate before heading to the governor’s desk.

Pennsylvania is currently one of only 10 states that do not ban drivers from texting while behind the wheel, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). But HB 8 would change that.

If it makes its way into law, motorists caught using a phone or computer to browse the internet, read or send messages would get one violation point added to their driving records and would be subject to a fine between $50 and $100.

HB 9 would beef up the restrictions and experience requirements for 16- and 17-year-old drivers.

Although the IIHS has given Pennsylvania’s licensing laws a “good” rating — the highest rating given by the Institute — the proposal would improve them further.

It would bar drivers under the age of 18 from driving with more than one under-18 passenger without parental approval. It would also require drivers applying for full licensure to have 65 hours of driving experience, “including no less than 10 hours of nighttime driving and five hours of inclement weather driving.” The law currently only requires 50 hours of driving experience.

None of the bills appear to have any direct auto insurance implications yet.

A representative from Allstate, Chris Conner, said the insurance company has no current stance on whether receiving a violation for texting while driving would affect Pennsylvania auto insurance premiums, since the bill is at such an early state in the legislative process.

“We look at infractions, but obviously there are several factors in general than can impact premiums,” Conner said. “In the Northeast region, there have been states that do have cellphone usage infractions on the books, and we do not have a penalty on premiums attached to those infractions.”

As for the licensing law, the heightened training and safety requirements would not necessarily on their own lead to lower rates for younger drivers. But, if the new restrictions ended up having a significant effect on accident rates for teen drivers, it could ultimately help drive down young drivers’ insurance costs.

About John Pirro
John Pirro is a licensed fire and casualty insurance agent specializing in various aspects of the auto insurance industry. He worked in the auto body repair industry before taking a reporting position at Online Auto Insurance News.

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