A state Senate vote has put Pennsylvania one step closer to enacting sensible distracted-driving rules that could safeguard the lives of teen drivers and other motorists.
The Senate's approval Wednesday of a bill that will get cellphones out of the hands of all drivers, and limit passengers in teen drivers' cars, isn't the best approach, but it represents substantial progress.
Among the provisions, the measure by the lead sponsor, Sen. Robert M. "Tommy" Tomlinson (R., Bucks), would ban the use of handheld devices for calls or texting.
Experts say using these gadgets behind the wheel raises the risk of a serious crash fourfold.
Under the Senate proposal, young drivers could be pulled over solely for violating the new texting and phoning rules, while older motorists could be cited only if stopped by police for other infractions. That weakens the legislation, but the state House may make it stronger.
Parents should be particularly encouraged that the Senate bill would limit teen drivers to a single nonfamily rider during their first six months on the road. The distraction of even a single passenger has been shown to ramp up teens' risk of deadly crashes.
The use of phones and other handheld devices has become so widespread that one in five crashes causing injuries now involves distracted driving.