News & Politics

Gov. Shapiro signs distracted driving bill into law

Under the new law, using a mobile device while driving will be a summary offense in Pennsylvania.

Activist Eileen Miller, Gov. Josh Shapiro, state Sen. Rosemary Brown and others pose for a photo in the state Capitol.

Activist Eileen Miller, Gov. Josh Shapiro, state Sen. Rosemary Brown and others pose for a photo in the state Capitol. Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus

Gov. Josh Shapiro on Wednesday signed legislation into law that prohibits the use of cell phones and other mobile devices while driving a vehicle, capping off a years-long effort by one state lawmaker to institute a penalty for distracted driving.

The new law, referred to as Paul Miller’s Law, was introduced by state Sen. Rosemary Brown more than a decade ago during her time in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. It’s named in memory of Paul Miller Jr., who in 2010 died in a motor vehicle accident involving a tractor-trailer with a distracted driver. Since his death, Paul’s mother Eileen has been a major advocate for a ban on distracted driving.

In the years that followed, Brown sponsored several bills seeking to add penalties for distracted driving in Pennsylvania, but they ultimately did not get the governor’s signature. On Wednesday, however, Shapiro signed Senate Bill 37 into law – a move that the governor said would help make Pennsylvania roadways more safe.

“For many families like (Eileen’s), who have an empty seat at the dinner table because of distracting driving, It doesn't have to be this way,” Shapiro said. “Thanks to the group that is assembled here today, it won't be that way as much anymore Iin Pennsylvania, because today, that finally changes.”

The law prohibits drivers from using “interactive mobile devices” while driving a vehicle, and those who violate the law will face a summary offense and $50 fine, upon conviction.

The law, which will be Act 18 of 2024, includes an exception for emergency use. Under the new statute, drivers will be able to use their mobile device to contact law enforcement or emergency services. Drivers would also be permitted to use their devices exclusively for navigation, and the prohibition will not apply to mobile and handheld radios used by emergency personnel and commercial drivers.

Brown said Wednesday that she stuck with the bill, despite more than a decade of challenges, because she felt it was the right thing to do.

“Never did I realize that getting a cell phone out of the hands of a driver would be so difficult in the legislative process,” Brown said. 

“A reporter asked me just last week: ‘Rosemary, how and why did you stay with this for 12 years?’” Brown recalled. “My answer was very clear. I knew it was right, and I knew it was absolutely needed to do our best to change the behavior of drivers behind the wheel while using a cell phone to prevent crashes, to build public safety and, of course, to work to save lives.”

Miller’s parents were in attendance at the bill signing on Wednesday, and Eileen Miller thanked Brown for her dedication to the bill. 

“Sen. Rosemary Brown, there's not enough words to say to you. From that moment I met you … I knew that you would be the one, and I was so right. I knew you were a mom. I knew that you would be the one to do it,” Miller said. 

Through tears, Eileen Miller recalled learning of her son’s death, and in that moment vowing to determine the cause of the crash and fight for change. That led to a multi-year and multi-state effort to pass bans on distracted driving that culminated Wednesday in a new law named after her son. 

“Finally, after 12 years, we did it,” she said.