Philly Steps Into The Cell Phone Void

May 21st, 2009

By Dean I. Weitzman, Esq.


A person talking (and especially texting) on his cell phone is as impaired as one who drives while intoxicated. Both impairments are equally dangerous for others on the road and can, and often do, result in catastrophic injuries. We have handled many cases where subpoenaed cell phone records demonstrate that the at-fault drivers were using their phones during the accident. In one such case, we even proved that a local clergy person was using his cell phone at the time that he crashed into our client’s car. The impact was so severe that he caused our client to sustain life threatening injuries that required emergency surgery. This was a prime example of what happens when we take our eyes off the road, for even seconds, to use our cell phone. Recently, there has been a spate of mass transit operators who have caused multiple casualties while texting and driving.

Philadelphia’s valiant City Council took the bull by the horns recently when Pennsylvania’s legislators rejected a statewide ban on hand held cell phone use while driving. That statewide ban had been proposed by a forward thinking young legislator named Josh Shapiro, a Democrat from Montgomery County. Shapiro was willing to take a stance against the cell phone industry that few others were willing to join. Once the statewide ban went down in defeat Philly took matters into its own hands as Mayor Michael Nutter signed a citywide ban on the use of hand held cell phones while behind the wheel. For a thorough review of the proposed new law see my article recently cited in Findlaw.

Unfortunately, it seems Philly may not be able to lead where the state refuses to follow. It is crucial for our state to uphold consistency in its driving laws as people motor across the Commonwealth. And the Commonwealth’s legislators have made that imminently clear, when they recently enacted a law in response to the City’s ban, which essentially deprives Philadelphia of over 90 million dollars in state aid yearly should Philadelphia actually go ahead with the proposed ban. This may cause Philly’s ban to be more of an afterthought than an enforceable law. While I believe that Mayor Nutter and the good folks in City Council have the right idea, for the time being we may simply need to continue relying on the protection provided by trial lawyers, who will continue to subpoena cell phone records in the aftermath of accidents and punish the wrongdoers financially.

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