The state Senate's vote on Tuesday, 45-5, approved an amended version of a bill it easily passed in June and sent it to the desk of Gov. Tom Corbett, who is expected to sign it. The ban would take effect 120 days after Corbett signs it.
Although the House stripped out a provision that would also punish drivers for talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device, proponents still looked at the bill's passage as a victory.
"All the rest of your life for the simple thing of texting a friend you have to live with the fact that you did not have control of your vehicle and you killed somebody," Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria, told colleagues in a floor speech before the vote.
Senators voting "no" were Jake Corman of Centre County, John Eichelberger of Blair County, Mike Folmer of Lebanon County, Charles McIlhinney of Bucks County and Don White of Indiana County.
Folmer said the state already has laws against distracted or reckless driving, and that adding this law to the books won't make people any more responsible.
"We don't need another nanny bill to be passed to make us feel better and secondly, how's that going to help teach responsibility?" he said.
The bill would make texting behind the wheel a primary offense so that police can pull over motorists for that violation alone. The penalty is $50. Police will not be allowed to seize the cell phone or other device.
Talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device remains legal for Pennsylvania motorists, despite years of attempts by the Senate and some House lawmakers to outlaw it. Nine states have such bans.
The bill that passed the Senate in June banned both texting while driving and talking on a cell phone while driving without a hands-free device. However, after the House approved the texting ban on Monday, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said that his chamber would continue to consider a ban on talking on cell phones.
Corbett last week signed into law tougher new regulations for teen drivers, including limits on how many passengers they can carry and more stringent training requirements.