How Much Does a Texting Ticket Cost?

Pennsylvania has a texting-and-driving law that makes it illegal to use an interactive device to send, read, or write messages while driving. The fine for a texting-and-driving ticket is $50 for each offense.

But the costs of a texting ticket go beyond a fine. These costs range from increased insurance premiums to liability for any accidents that you cause while texting and driving.

Here are the things you should know about Pennsylvania’s texting-and-driving law, along with the other costs that a driver might see after a texting ticket.

Pennsylvania’s Texting-and-Driving Law

Pennsylvania’s texting-and-driving law has a few wrinkles that make it unique. The law creates a summary offense for driving while writing, reading, or sending a text-based communication from an interactive wireless communication device.

Interactive Wireless Communication Device

Pennsylvania defines an interactive wireless communications device as any device that can be used for voice calls, texts, emails, Internet browsing, or instant messages (IMs). It specifically includes cell phones, smartphones, PDAs, laptops, or tablets.

The law excludes navigation and GPS devices, as well as hand-free calling systems that are built into a vehicle.

Text-Based Communication

A text-based communication includes texts, IMs, e-mails, and any other written communication that’s composed or received on the device. A text-based communication specifically excludes a number or name that the driver selects to activate or deactivate a voice call. 

Also, it does not include an address entered into a navigation system.

In Motion

The law prohibits writing, reading, or sending communications while the vehicle is in motion. This includes any time at which the vehicle is moving, even if it is not moving in traffic. But it might exclude stops at a traffic signal.

Primary Offenses

Law enforcement can enforce laws involving primary offenses without another violation occurring. Suppose that an officer sees you texting while driving. The officer does not need to see you drive recklessly, swerving, or even turning without signaling to pull you over. Rather, the officer can ticket you simply because you texted while driving.

Costs of a Texting Ticket in Pennsylvania

The law imposes a fine of $50 per offense. In other jurisdictions, the fines increase with repeat offenses. In Pennsylvania, the fine remains fixed for every offense.

But someone who violates the texting-and-driving law faces more than a $50 fine. Some of the other costs that might come from the violation include:

Increased Insurance Premiums

Pennsylvania uses a no-fault insurance system. Your insurer has primary responsibility for any injuries that you suffer in a car accident. As a result, your insurance provider will raise your premiums for any acts that could increase its risk, including a texting ticket.

Negligence and Negligence Per Se

Most personal injury claims are based on negligence law. You have to prove another person was negligent to recover damages for your injuries.

Negligence per se is a legal doctrine that creates a shortcut for proving negligence if the person responsible for an injury broke a safety law. 

Pennsylvania’s law was aimed at decreasing distracted driving. If you cause an accident by texting while driving, a texting ticket might make you financially responsible for any injuries that result from the accident.

Contributory Fault

On the other hand, texting while driving could reduce your compensation if you’re injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault. Or, it could bar you from recovering compensation at all. 

Pennsylvania’s comparative fault law allows an injured person to sue an at-fault driver for their injuries even if they were partially to blame for the accident. However, if you were more than 50% responsible for the accident, you are barred from recovering damages. You can recover compensation if you are 50% or less responsible for the accident, but your share of fault will reduce your damages. 

Say your texting while driving and another driver negligently sideswipes you. Say this accident was not your fault. The at-fault driver may still claim you contributed to the accident by texting while driving. If the jury buys this argument, it could reduce your damages or prevent you from recovering any – depending on your percentage of fault.

Avoiding a Texting Ticket

The best way to avoid the costs of a texting ticket is remain focused on the road while you’re driving. By putting down your phone, you will avoid the fine, along with financial responsibility that comes with an accident that you cause.