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‘Paul, I did it:’ As PA bans cellphone use while driving, mom of son killed by distracted driver recounts decade-long fight.

Gov. Josh Shapiro comforts Eileen Miller during the signing of a measure known as Paul Miller’s Law. Her son, Paul Miller, was was killed by a distracted driver. The measure bans
the use of handheld devices while driving.(Courtesy of Commonwealth Media Services)
Gov. Josh Shapiro comforts Eileen Miller during the signing of a measure known as Paul Miller’s Law. Her son, Paul Miller, was was killed by a distracted driver. The measure bans the use of handheld devices while driving.(Courtesy of Commonwealth Media Services)
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WILKES-BARRE — Eileen Miller said that when she was told her son, Paul, was killed, she did not know it was a result of distracted driving.

“My son did everything right — and somebody else was the one who was the cause of my son’s demise,” Miller said. “I whispered in the ear of my son at the morgue — who I couldn’t even identify, I didn’t even know that it was him, he was that bad — but I whispered in his ear that when I found out what had caused that crash, I would fight for change.

“We later found out that it was distracted driving. I held that honor to him — and today is Paul Miller’s law.”

Gov. Josh Shapiro signed Senate Bill 37 — known as Paul Miller’s Law — into law Wednesday, prohibiting the use of handheld devices while driving. This bipartisan legislation makes Pennsylvania the 29th state in the nation to ban distracted driving.

The law allows police to issue a ticket when a driver uses a cellphone while driving. Drivers can still use their phones to alert emergency responders and to make phone calls, use a GPS, and listen to music, if they are using hands-free technology.

“I have met too many people with injuries they’ll live with for the rest of their lives because they were hit by a distracted driver — and too many families that have an empty seat at the dinner table because of distracted driving,” Shapiro said. “This commonsense, bipartisan legislation — passed and signed into law in honor of Paul Miller’s legacy — empowers our state and local police to stop distracted driving and make our roads and communities safer.”

Shapiro said the law also increases transparency and ensures accountability at traffic stops, while providing crucial public safety data to keep roads safe.

“This is an example of what we can accomplish when we work together: senators and representatives from both parties came together to pass commonsense legislation that will save lives across Pennsylvania,” Shapiro said.

Miller of Lackawanna County said when her son passed away, two Dunmore state troopers came knocking on her door to deliver the news.

Gov. Josh Shapiro with Paul Miller's mother, Eileen, and numerous lawmakers who backed the bill banning handheld devices for drivers. (COURTESY OF COMMONWEALTH MEDIA SERVICES)
Gov. Josh Shapiro stands with Paul Miller’s mother, Eileen, to his left, and numerous lawmakers who backed the bill banning handheld devices for drivers. (Courtesy of Commonwealth Media Services)

Paul Miller Jr. was tragically killed in a motor vehicle accident with a tractor-trailer on July 5, 2010, when a distracted driver lost control of his tractor-trailer and slammed head-on into Paul Jr.’s car, killing him and injuring several others in another vehicle.

Since Paul’s death, Eileen Miller has become a national advocate for stronger laws to curb distracted driving.

“I’ve gotten it done, Paul, I did it,” she said. “This is for every family that is in Pennsylvania that doesn’t have to have two state troopers knocking on their door to tell them that their loved one was killed by something so preventable as distracted driving.”

The governor’s office said Paul Miller’s Law will also work to prevent bias in policing by requiring law enforcement to collect data on drivers pulled over during traffic stops, including race, ethnicity and gender. The data will be made publicly available in an annual report.

Shapiro advocated for the amendment in conjunction with the Legislative Black Caucus.

“Limiting distractions while behind the wheel makes Pennsylvania’s roadways safer for everyone,” said Col Christopher Paris, Pennsylvania State Police commissioner. “Eliminating the handling of cellphones while driving will certainly reduce the number of crashes and save lives.”

In 2023, distracted driving was the leading cause of car crashes in Pennsylvania with traffic deaths rising by 2.25%, compared to 2022, according to PennDOT’s annual crash information report.

The report showed 1,209 deaths in motor vehicle crashes, up from 1,179 in the prior year. There were more than 11,262 distracted driving crashes in 2023, compared to 8,330 alcohol-related crashes.

Shapiro was also joined by a bipartisan group of legislators, including prime sponsor state Sen. Rosemary Brown, R-Monroe County.

“As this bill is signed into law, I am filled with gratitude for those who helped me along this process, and I know this measure will protect drivers, prevent crashes, and save lives,” Brown said. “This bill is more than legislation — it is a reminder of the power of perseverance and the impact we can have when we prioritize public safety.”

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