Wyoming bills address chain law, road closures and distracted driving

| 1/22/2009

A handful of road safety bills introduced at the Wyoming statehouse carry some hefty fines.

Rep. Stan Blake, D-Green River, is the sponsor of a bill that would increase fines for drivers who do not put chains on their vehicles when it is required. Blake wants to modify the rule to specifically address where truck drivers must install chains on their tires.

Wyoming law now mandates that travel on highways may be restricted to all wheel drive vehicles or motor vehicles equipped with tire chains or adequate snow tires when the superintendent or his authorized representative determine that travel is sufficiently hazardous due to snow, ice, or other conditions.

For commercial vehicles with four or more drive wheels with spacing of five feet or less between axles, the bill – HB85 – specifies that tire chains must be installed to at least two of the drive wheels at opposite ends of the same drive axle when the vehicle is required to be equipped with tire chains.

Violators would face up to $250 fines. If violations result in the closure of all lanes in one or both directions, fines would increase to as much as $750.

Blake’s bill is in the Legislature’s Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee.

The Senate voted 22-9 Tuesday, Jan. 20, to advance another bill to the House that would increase the fines for failing to observe road closures. The measure – SF59 – also would set up standards for allowing vehicles to use closed roads.

Failure to observe signs, warnings or other markers would result in as much as $650 fines and/or up to 30 days in jail. State law now allows for $100 fines.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation or Highway Patrol could allow vehicles to proceed if drivers are traveling to a destination beyond the closure point, if either agency determines there is no dangerous or hazardous condition preventing passage, or if drivers agree to any conditions or requirements for traveling on the closed portion of the highway.

Passage would be granted on a case-by-case basis, unless otherwise determined by WYDOT or the Highway Patrol.

Two bills would prohibit the use of wireless communication devices while driving. One bill – SF63 – would ban use of text messaging devices while at the wheel. The second bill – SF64 – would outlaw the use of hand-held phones, including text messaging devices, by all drivers. Of particular interest for truckers, an exception would be made for CBs. Both bills are in the Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor