Truckers are already prohibited from texting while at the wheel, but a bill headed to Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal creates a statewide ban that would include anyone who is driving.
Wyoming is poised to become the 20th state to outlaw reading, typing or sending text messages while driving down the road. Elsewhere, lawmakers in many other states are intent on adopting their own texting bans.
The Wyoming Senate signed off on the proposed ban a day after the House narrowly approved the bill – SF20. The action cleared the way for the bill to move to Freudenthal’s desk where it is expected to be signed into law.
Violations would be a primary offense, meaning law enforcement could pull over drivers solely for texting. Offenders would face $75 fines.
Some lawmakers question whether Wyoming needs a law specifying that texting while driving is against the law. They point out the state already has laws on the books prohibiting careless driving and distracted driving. Others say the texting ban would be difficult to enforce.
Supporters say many laws are difficult to enforce, but that is no reason to reject it. They also say a ban would send a message to the public that texting is unsafe.
Efforts to curtail distracted driving are increasing in popularity throughout the country. A year ago, about a dozen states adopted texting-while-driving bans. Lawmakers in many of those states were spurred to action after a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that drivers are more than 23 times as likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash while texting at the wheel.
The findings have prompted lawmakers throughout the country to continue the pursuit of curbing the practice of texting while driving.
Distracted driving is also getting a lot of attention at the federal level. In January, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made text messaging while driving off limits for commercial drivers.
At the U.S. Capitol, four bills being considered would make texting off limits for drivers of all vehicles.
Two bills would include a restriction on cell phone use with the ban on texting while driving. This version would dole out $30 million in grants to states that pass laws to curb distracted driving. OOIDA favors this approach.
The other bills would require states to ban texting or e-mailing while driving or do without 25 percent of their federal highway funds.
To view other legislative activities of interest for Wyoming in 2010, click here.
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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