The Alaska House has approved a bill that would forbid drivers from
watching television or video monitors while the vehicle is moving. The measure
allots for stiffer penalties if the driver causes a wreck that kills or injures
The effort stems from a 2002 fatal crash on the Seward Highway. Erwin “Jamie” Petterson Jr. was accused of driving while watching a movie when his
vehicle collided with another and two people died. He was acquitted in the
Sponsored by Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, the bill would create the
crime of driving with a screen operating. The rule would not apply to
vehicles’ built-in display, global positioning systems, mapping programs or
side- and rear-view video cameras on larger vehicles.
Watching the video screen while driving could result in a misdemeanor
charge and a fine of between $2,500 and $10,000. If a person watching the
screen was involved in an accident that injures or killed another person, the
charge would jump from a misdemeanor to a felony.
The bill – HB12 – has been sent to the Senate for further
Alaska isn’t alone in its pursuit for stricter
guidelines of what drivers can and cannot view while behind the wheel.
A bill in the Massachusetts statehouse would also forbid drivers from
watching television and videos while behind the wheel.
Current Massachusetts law already prohibits drivers from watching any
device that receives a television broadcast if it’s located in front of the
back of the driver’s seat or is visible to the driver – regardless of whether the
device interferes with safe driving.
Sponsored by Sen. Jarrett Barrios, D-Cambridge, the bill would amend
the law to prohibit drivers from watching any device capable of displaying “a
television broadcast or video feed” that is located within the driver’s view.
The restriction wouldn’t apply to dashboard readouts or other displays
of information about a vehicle’s operation or conduct.
Drivers found in violation of the rule could be fined between $100 and
Barrios’ bill – S1864 – is in the Joint Committee on Transportation.
In Wisconsin, Rep. Gary Bies, R-Sister Bay, has offered a bill that
adds DVDs and video games to the off-limits list.
Drivers found in violation of the rule could be fined as much as $400.
Bies’ bill – AB567 – is in the Assembly Rules Committee.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative