End of road for Philly cell phone warnings

PHILADELPHIA - November 30, 2009

The city's ban on driving while using cell phones goes into full force December 1. Up to this point, police were issuing warnings to drivers. Now if a police officer sees you holding a cell phone while you're driving, you'll have to pay a big fine.

The ban, thought to be the most comprehensive in the country, also applies to people on bikes, roller skates, and pretty much anything that moves.

Action News was out, catching up with people we spotted using their cell phones behind the wheel. One man knew he got nabbed: "I won't do it again," he told reporter Brian Taff.

But while likely a bit embarrassed, he was also rather lucky.

Seven months after Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter signed a city ordinance banning cell phones while driving, the law is finally going into effect. As of Tuesday, December 1, 2009, no more pink slip warnings; talking will get you a ticket.

"We did warnings from quite some time, we did as much informational dissemination as we could," Lt. Frank Vanore told Action News. "Tomorrow fines could be imposed if an officer does stop someone." Those fines are nothing to flinch at. They range from $150 for a first time offense to $300 for drivers who repeatedly dial while driving.

For Philadelphia Councilman Bill Green, who sponsored the bill and was himself once hit by a distracted driver, it's an effort that's long overdue.

"It's just clear, the evidence is clear that Philadelphia will be safer," Bill Green (D), said.

Since April 20th, the day the bill passed, and coincidentally the same day a cellphone-related accident injured 16 people, police have sought to spread the message.

While most people tell Action News that they are aware of the ban, and even think it's a good idea, the vast majority, it seems, are still ignoring it. But that's a luxury they won't have any longer. While police say they'll decide to ticket on a case-by-case basis, they will be on the lookout and not just for those behind the wheel.

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