Rhode Island bans texting while at the wheel

| 11/11/2009

It now is illegal to read, type or send text messages while driving in Rhode Island.

Gov. Donald Carcieri has signed a bill into law adding the Ocean State to the bulging list of states to forbid text messaging while at the wheel. Previously S204, the new law took effect with the governor’s signature.

Those caught in the act of texting when driving could face up to $85 fines. Repeat offenders could face $100 fines while subsequent offenses could result in $125 fines.

Supporters say the ban will help make roads safer. Critics question how the police will be able to determine that a driver was texting and not dialing a phone number. Others say the law should have included an all-out ban on the use of cell phones while driving.

The Rhode Island Department of Transportation is planning to alert drivers of the new law by running ads, using RIDOT’s highway message signs, posting information on social media sites, and reaching out to universities to get the word out.

Intent on reducing distracted driving, Rhode Island is the 14th state to enforce a texting ban on all drivers. In all, nearly 20 states have approved bans on the practice of operating a motor vehicle while texting. Colorado and North Carolina bans are slated to take effect Dec. 1. Illinois, Oregon and New Hampshire are scheduled to start enforcing their laws Jan. 1.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is working with the Department of Transportation to help reduce distracted driving.

The Association would like to see more “ride-alongs” with law enforcement agencies. The experience allows officers to sit in the cab and see firsthand how people drive around trucks. Such programs could also lead to better enforcement of existing traffic laws.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Rhode Island in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.