What Is Paul Miller’s Law?

What Is Paul Miller’s Law?Paul Miller’s Law is a new law in the state of Pennsylvania that would prohibit drivers from holding cellphones or other electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. The law is named after Paul Miller, a 21-year-old man who was killed in a car accident in 2010 by a distracted tractor-trailer driver.

The law passed through the House of Representatives Transportation Committee and landed on Governor Scott Shapiro’s desk after years of lobbying by Paul’s mother, Eileen Miller. She became a traffic safety advocate after her son’s death and has tirelessly pushed for the passage of the law.

Miller tells Fox 56:

I want to do it for other parents so they never have to view what I had to view, which they didn’t want me to view, they begged me not to view him, I said he’s mine and I had to be there for him to tell him I would find out how he died, what caused it, and I would make change, and that promise I didn’t think would take this long.

What are the key provisions within Paul Miller’s Law?

The new law “amends the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes on vehicles with a focus on restricting the use of mobile devices while driving.” It does so by:

  • Changing “interactive mobile devices” to “interactive wireless communication mobile devices” within the language of the law, so that the law covers more than just cellphones. Illegal actions now include while driving to include texting, web browsing, sending/reading emails and/or instant messages playing games, using social media, and making/recording videos.
  • Mandating “additional driving experience and education on distracted driving for learner’s permit holders” before they take their tests.
  • Adding a new section on distracted driving to drivers’ manuals.
  • Enhancing penalties for drivers who cause injuries or deaths because they were distracted while they drove. Those penalties include a $50 ticket for first-time offenders, and up to five years in prison for distracted drivers who cause fatal accidents. Additional enhancements may apply if the crash happens in a work zone.
  • Allowing police to collect certain data about the traffic stop and any subsequent searches, and to share that data with third parties (the Transportation Committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, etc.) for the purpose of analysis.

You can read the full text of the law here.

Reports PA Homepage, “This law aims to make the roads safer by increasing penalties for people holding a cell phone while driving. If passed drivers will be required to mount their cell phone. Advocates of this bill do not want people texting or scrolling on their phones behind the wheel.”

The bill does have its detractors, however. Liz Randol, the Pennsylvania Legislative Director for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told ABC 27 that she has concerns about the data collection aspect of the bill:

“Distracted driving is certainly a problem,” [said Randol]. “But we just believe that this is definitely not the way to address it.”

Civil libertarians worry the bill gives local police more power to pull people over for what the officer thinks they saw.

Randol believes the bill would “give police officers more justification to engage in stops that could turn confrontational and or lethal.”

When does Paul Miller’s Law go into effect in Pennsylvania?

Immediately, but there is a 12 month grace period before the penalties kick in. So for the next year, law enforcement will only issue warnings.

Are distracted driving laws effective?

Distracted driving laws can be effective tools in raising awareness and deterring behaviors that contribute to car accidents. However, their effectiveness varies depending on enforcement, public education campaigns, and general attitudes toward distracted driving.

AAA reports:

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,142 people were killed in 2019 in motor vehicle crashes in the United States in which one or more drivers was reported as distracted (National Center for Statistics and Analysis, 2021). On a recent nationally-representative survey, 37% of respondents reported talking on a handheld cellphone while driving in the past 30 days, while 34% reported reading texts or emails and 23% reported typing texts or emails while driving (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 2021).

Banning phone use while driving is a common approach, like that taken by the state of Pennsylvania, but there are other strategies to address distracted driving:

  • Education and awareness campaigns: Increasing public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving through campaigns, school programs, and media can change attitudes and behaviors.
  • Technology solutions: Implementing technology solutions like smartphone apps that block notifications while driving or integrating hands-free communication systems in vehicles can help reduce distractions.
  • Strengthening enforcement: Strict enforcement of existing laws coupled with increased fines or penalties for offenders can act as a deterrent.
  • Designing safer roads and vehicles: Road and vehicle design can play a role in reducing distractions. For example, designing roads with fewer visual distractions or implementing vehicle features that minimize the need for manual interaction can help.
  • Encouraging responsible passenger behavior: Passengers can contribute to distraction, so promoting responsible behavior among passengers can help reduce distractions for the driver.
  • Workplace policies: Employers can implement policies that discourage employees from using phones while driving for work purposes.
  • Social norms and peer pressure: Encouraging social norms that discourage distracted driving and empowering individuals to speak up when they see others engaging in risky behaviors can be effective.

AAA further reports:Top of Form

Legislative efforts to curb distracted driving tend to fall into three types: all-driver handheld cellphone bans, all-driver texting bans, or complete cellphone bans that apply to a subset of drivers. Evaluations of all-driver handheld cellphone bans have found reductions in self-reported or observed phone use while driving and, in some cases, fatal and injury crashes. However, these outcomes are not universal.

Finally, Eileen Miller notes, “I tell everybody, ‘turn their phones off behind the wheel.’ Once you lose a child, there is nothing that important. Nothing’s that important.”

At KBG Injury Law, we know how deadly distracted driving can be, and we are glad that the governor signed a law to ban all handheld use of devices. We hope that will reduce the number of injuries and deaths on our roadways.

In the meantime, our dedicated York distracted driving accident lawyers are here to help. We have a proven track record of holding negligent drivers accountable and securing the maximum compensation for victims. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney from KBG Injury Law, just call our offices or fill out our contact form. We maintain offices in York, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Hanover, and Gettysburg for your convenience.