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Waynesboro mayor suggests cell phone ban

June 18, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Waynesboro Mayor Richard Starliper this week floated the idea of banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving within borough limits.

But legislation moving through the Pennsylvania General Assembly could make such regulations undesirable for more than just fans of calling while driving.

House Bill 67, which passed on a 167-28 vote in April, would withhold state funds from municipalities that adopt ordinances prohibiting handheld cell phone use while driving. The bill's author, state Rep. Richard A. Geist, R-Altoona, argued drivers shouldn't be subjected to different rules in different communities, saying Pennsylvania's vehicle code should be followed everywhere in the state.

As a punishment for municipalities that violate the vehicle code, Geist suggested withholding Liquid Fuels funding, which is used to pave roads.

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Geist, chairman of the House transportation committee, introduced the same proposal in the previous legislative session.

The Pennsylvania Senate has not voted on the legislation.

Starliper said he's concerned about safety when drivers are talking on cell phones held to their ears. Although the mayor said he doesn't want to criticize people in their late teens and 20s, he said seven out of 10 drivers from that age group seem to be on their phones.

"Sometimes I'm guilty of that, too, but I try to use my Bluetooth" earpiece, he said.

Starliper said he was unaware of the legislation and would not want to jeopardize Waynesboro's Liquid Fuels money.

Shelley Houk of the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs said none of the state's 959 boroughs has requested a sample ordinance to ban handheld cell phone use while driving.

"I would believe (House Bill 67) is the reason they're not asking," said Houk, the association's research director.

The City of Philadelphia this spring enacted a ban on cell phone use while driving, cycling or skating.

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