Allentown cell phone law tossed

scales of justiceA county judge in Pennsylvania has thrown out Allentown’s local law against using handheld cell phones while driving.

The cases of two drivers ticketed for cell phone use were brought to Judge James Anthony on appeal.

“The (state) legislature can certainly pass a statute specifically covering the use of cell phones while driving, and any other matters concerning distracted driving, but has yet to do so,” Anthony wrote in his opinion. “Until such time, (the city’s cell phone ban) is pre-empted by state law, and is therefore invalid.”

(Update of June 8: Allentown decided not to contest the judge’s ruling, saying: “The city elected not to appeal because it was determined that it would be too costly with no guarantee that we would prevail. It is our hope that the state legislature will take-up the issue and make it a part of the state motor vehicle code to end the debate once and for all.”)

Pennsylvania has no distracted driving laws, and it appears legislation for 2011 will fail to advance, once again.

Allentown’s law was enacted in March 2010, with fines of up to $300. Mayor Ed Pawlowski told the Morning Call newspaper that the city hasn’t decided whether to appeal.

The mayor called the Lehigh County judge’s ruling “unfortunate.”

“What it does is cause a lot of pain and suffering because it will encourage more people to talk on the phone while driving,” Pawlowski said.

If appealed unsuccessfully, the ruling could mean trouble for other cities in the state with distracted driving laws, including Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Erie.

A judge overturned a similar ban in Hilltown Township, Bucks County, in 2000, on the same grounds used by Anthony.

“Other municipalities should beware,” Pawlowski told the Philadelphia News. “This may happen to you. What happens here will reverberate to other municipalities.”

Philadelphia’s ban on handheld cell phones went into effect in 2009, under threat of sanctions from the state legislature. Mayor Mike Nutter went ahead anyway, with his office calling the state DOT policy against individual city driving laws “highly ambiguous.”


  1. Don’t use your turn signals either, man! Well, you know, unless you want to.

  2. Al Cinamon says:

    What you say makes perfect sense. Thank you for your insight. From now on I will not stop at any stop signs or red lights. I will forever exercise my free will.

  3. If we are going to punish people who CHOOSE to use their phones while they drive, we should strip all matters of free will. No more radios in cars, no more eating or drinking while a vehicle is in motion, daily inspection centers to ensure that tires, brakes, and engines are in proper working order and windshields are clean. Crying children and loose pets also distract drivers. The high-tech billboards that are akin to televisions should also be banned. Roadkill should be reported and cleaned up within twenty minutes so that people don’t drive into other lanes to avoid running over a carcass. Better yet, all animals should be banned from roadways.

    You know what? I bet if we banned personal vehicles, and beefed up our public transportation services, we wouldn’t have issues like this.

    Cars should be illegal.

    Seriously people. Let’s just nerf the world. Eliminate free will and all civil liberties.

    And don’t start with me about how when one is distracted while driving you endanger the lives of the other people on the road. Lives are affected by every decision we make- from what we buy, to what perfume/cologne we wear.

    When are people going to learn that they can only control themselves?

  4. Next Thursday, I head to Philadelphia to contest my cell phone ticket there. I will fight till the end on this. I cound understand if it was a state law, but with no signs/warnings, its impossible to travel through 20-some counties from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and know each own town’s traffic laws. I just hope I am found guilty, so I can appeal to the county level and get the law tossed.

  5. Al Cinamon says:

    I think you missed my point. I know it’s a safety issue. I’ve made safety my life’s work. I’ve been a driving instructor since 1965. The point I tried to make is that our politicians think only in terms of revenue raising. That’s why they write laws that encourage crashing.

  6. Using a cell phone does impair a driver’s ability when driving. It is not only dangerous but deadly. We need a law for this that changes the behaviors of drivers. My family knows first hand how the affects of driving and talking and texting does. My son and his wife almost lost their lives because the other driver was talking on the cell phone while driving. My son and his wife’s lives were changed forever because of it. They will never be the same and my daughter-in-law is now 27 and she is disabled. All because of someone talking on the cell phone while driving. It’s not so much of an issue with revenue, it’s more about saving lives and preventing life changing injuries!!!!

  7. Ben Levitan says:

    Al, You are correct about revenue. The problems of texting and driving are killing people, especially kids and there are patents out there that will solve this problem TECHNICALLY. The talk about laws is targeted at generating revenue and the misguided belief that laws actually change behaviors.


  8. Ben Levitan says:

    I’m an expert in cellular phone and testify in matters where a cell phone was the cause of an accident.

    When you are on a cell phone you are impaired at the same level as someone who is drunk at the legal limit of .08. To allow talking and driving is equivalent to allowing drunk driving. This is outrageous.

    Ben Levitan

  9. Al Cinamon says:

    So, it’s not just NY that refuses to ban talking on a cell phone while driving. (Currently it only bans holding a cell phone). It just goes to prove what I’ve been saying for a long time. States only care about the tax revenue they get from transactions that flow from a traffic crash, such as, hospital charges, doctor fees, repair shop charges, florist charges, and, yes, undertaker charges. They just don’t care about safety.

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