Erie drivers banned from talking, texting

Don’t pick up that phone while driving in the City of Erie, or you could be using next term’s book money to pay a hefty fine.

Texting, talking, e-mailing, and all Internet activity done on a handheld mobile device while operating a vehicle (including a bicycle) is now illegal in the City of Erie.

Cell phone use is permitted only if the driver is dialing 911, reporting traffic accidents or reckless drivers, or if the car is in a parking lane or space out of moving traffic and not in gear.

The new law went into effect Tuesday, Jan. 5. Drivers caught violating this law will have to pay charges ranging from $150 to $300.

As a primary offense, police officers can pull a driver over if they see the driver using a phone.

Senior Cara Adamus said, “It’s a good idea, but I don’t agree with it. We are part of the multitasking generation, so we can do more than one thing at a time.”

Erie City Council decided not to follow Harrisburg’s lead and post signs alerting residents of the ban. The Mercyhurst administration put a notice about the law in the daily faculty e-mail, but the college has not informed students of the ban. As a result, the ban could come as a surprise for students with cars, many of whom do not read the Erie Times-News or watch local news stations.

“It’s safer, but it’s a little inconvenient at the same time,” sophomore Nicole Vonderau said.

One inconvenience is having to remember where the law is in effect. Because the law only applies to drivers within the City of Erie, cell phone use is not restricted while driving in the municipalities or other parts of Erie County. Erie city limits extend from Grandview Boulevard north to the lake and from Pittsburgh Avenue east to Bird Drive.

One option would be to refrain from using cell phones at all, but this may be hard for a generation used to being accessible 24/7.

Brittany Palmer, a high school student who takes classes at Mercyhurst, said, “It’s a good law overall, but I think it’s going to be hard to restrain from picking up the phone when someone calls.”