Heads up, LITERALLY! Distracted driving with cell phones is now ILLEGAL in Pennsylvania

05 June 2024- Governor Josh Shapiro has officially signed Senate Bill 37, known as Paul Miller’s Law, into law, prohibiting the use of hand-held devices while driving. This bipartisan legislation makes Pennsylvania the 29th state in the nation to ban distracted driving.

Paul Miller’s Law allows law enforcement to issue a ticket when a driver uses a cell phone while driving. Drivers can still use their phones to alert emergency responders and to make phone calls, use a GPS, and listen to music, if they are using hands-free technology.

“I have met too many people with injuries they’ll live with for the rest of their lives because they were hit by a distracted driver – and too many families that have an empty seat at the dinner table because of distracted driving,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “This commonsense, bipartisan legislation – passed and signed into law in honor of Paul Miller’s legacy – empowers our state and local police to stop distracted driving and make our roads and communities safer. This law also increases transparency and ensures accountability at traffic stops while providing crucial public safety data to keep our roads safe. This is an example of what we can accomplish when we work together — Senators and Representatives from both parties came together to pass commonsense legislation that will save lives across Pennsylvania.”

Paul Miller Jr. was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident with a tractor-trailer in 2010 in Monroe County as the result of a distracted driver who reached for their phone while driving. Since Paul’s death, Eileen Miller has become a national advocate for stronger laws to curb distracted driving.  

“When Paul passed away, when unfortunately, two Dunmore state troopers came knocking on my door to tell me that my son was killed, I did not know it was distracted driving at the time,” said Eileen Miller, Paul Miller Jr.’s mother. “My son did everything right – and somebody else was the one who was the cause of my son’s demise. I whispered in the ear of my son at the morgue – who I couldn’t even identify, I didn’t even know that it was him, he was that bad – but I whispered in his ear that when I found out what had caused that crash, I would fight for change. We later found out that it was distracted driving. I held that honor to him – and today is Paul Miller’s law. I’ve gotten it done, Paul, I did it. This is for every family that is in Pennsylvania that doesn’t have to have two state troopers knocking on their door to tell them that their loved one was killed by something so preventable as distracted driving.”

Paul Miller’s Law will also work to prevent bias in policing by requiring law enforcement to collect data on drivers pulled over during traffic stops, including race, ethnicity, and gender. The data will be made publicly available in an annual report. This amendment – which the Governor advocated for in conjunction with the Legislative Black Caucus – builds on the Shapiro Administration’s work to ensure Pennsylvanians can have the utmost faith in the law enforcement officers serving and protecting them every day.

“Limiting distractions while behind the wheel makes Pennsylvania’s roadways safer for everyone,” said Colonel Christopher Paris, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police. “Eliminating the handling of cell phones while driving will certainly reduce the number of crashes and save lives.”

In 2023, distracted driving was the leading cause of car crashes in Pennsylvania with traffic deaths rising by 2.25% compared to 2022, according to PennDOT’s annual crash information report. The report showed 1,209 deaths in motor vehicle crashes, up from 1,179 in the prior year. There were more than 11,262 distracted driving crashes in 2023, compared to 8,330 alcohol-related crashes. 

“In 2023, there were over 11 thousand crashes in Pennsylvania that involved a distracted driver,” said PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll. “Driving requires 100% of your attention 100% of the time, and this bill – which I was proud to support as Minority Chair of the House Transportation Committee – is an important step forward in discouraging distracted driving and keeping everyone safe on the road. Congratulations to Senator Brown for her tireless efforts in support of this bill, and thanks to Eileen Miller for her years-long advocacy for this cause.”

Governor Shapiro was also joined by a bipartisan group of legislators, including SB 37 prime sponsor Senator Rosemary Brown.

“After more than a decade of dedicated work to enact this legislation, the passage of Senate Bill 37 marks a monumental victory for Pennsylvania,” said Senator Rosemary Brown. “As this bill is signed into law, I am filled with gratitude for those who helped me along this process, and I know this measure will protect drivers, prevent crashes, and save lives. This bill is more than legislation – it is a reminder of the power of perseverance and the impact we can have when we prioritize public safety.”

“This law is a shining example of responsible legislation that will both improve public safety and enhance transparency. I cannot stress enough the importance of that both and clause,” said Representative Napoleon Nelson. “We will not sacrifice justice and the freedoms of historically marginalized and overpoliced communities in the name of public safety. There is no safety there. Nor will we cede our responsibility to protect our residents and bind the hands of law enforcement strictly in the name of civil rights. There is no civility there. Act 18 is an impactful example of our capacity to do both.”

So far in 2024, Governor Shapiro has signed 18 bills into law.