Driver safety laws are starting to catch up with the latest technology, and the improvements can't get here fast enough.
The U.S. Transportation Department on Tuesday announced an immediate ban on texting by drivers of large commercial trucks and buses that carry more than eight passengers. Another executive order took effect last month prohibiting federal employees from text-ing while driving government vehicles.
Those are fine first steps, but they are too small. Nationwide, 19 states agree and they've already passed texting bans that apply to all drivers.
It's time for Pennsylvania lawmakers to listen to the groundswell of public opposition to people texting and reading e-mail messages when they should be keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel.
The state House went half the distance on Tuesday, when it overwhelmingly passed a safety measure that would prohibit sending text messages and ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, something already prohibited in six other states. Now it's up to the state Senate to stop worrying about opposition from the telecommunications industry and adopt House Bill 2070.
The bill also would prohibit drivers from using Smart phones, personal digital assistants or portable computers while their cars are in motion. Junior drivers -- 16- and 17-year-olds -- would not be able to use hands-free devices either, but that restriction would not apply to adult drivers. Although studies have shown that can be just as distracting, there is not as much public support for banning all calling while driving.
Nationwide bans on texting and hand-held cell phones are likely to come in the future, either through an act of Congress or because federal officials will use highway funds as muscle, threatening states by tying their allocations to enactment of statewide bans. But Pennsylvanians shouldn't have to wait for federal orders.
The current bill will prevent injuries, death and damage on the state's roadways by making it a crime if drivers don't put down their cell phones. The Senate should pass this safety measure, and fast.