States pursue distracted driving rules

| Monday, April 24, 2006

Several states are considering enacting laws related to driver distractions, with particular focus on video screens in vehicles.

A bill in the New York Senate would forbid drivers from watching video screens while behind the wheel.

State law already prohibits drivers from watching any video monitoring device that is in front of the back of the driver’s seat – regardless whether the device interferes with safe driving.

Sponsored by Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Syosset, the bill would amend the law to prohibit satellite video entertainment broadcasts, VCR or DVD transmissions or replays, or any other similar video entertainment presentations within the driver’s view.

The bill would provide an exception if the equipment is disabled while the vehicle is in motion. It would also exempt global positioning and navigational display systems.

Marcellino’s bill – S1310 – is awaiting consideration on the floor of the Senate. If approved, it would move to the Assembly.

New York isn’t alone in its pursuit for stricter guidelines of what drivers can and cannot view while behind the wheel.

In Alaska, the House has approved a bill that would also forbid drivers from watching television or video monitors while the vehicle is moving. The measure allots for stiffer penalties if the driver causes an accident that kills or injures another person.

Sponsored by Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, the bill would create the crime of driving with a screen operating.

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 is involved in an accident and injures or kills another person, the charges would jump from a misdemeanor to a felony.

The bill – HB12 – has been sent to the Senate for further consideration.

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 $200.

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.

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