Wyoming adopts texting-while-driving ban

| 3/15/2010

Truckers traveling through Wyoming soon won’t be the only ones banned from texting while driving. Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed a bill into law Wednesday, March 10, that includes anyone driving under a statewide ban.

As of July 1, Wyoming will become the 20th state to outlaw reading, typing or sending text messages while driving down the road. Elsewhere, efforts to adopt texting bans are being hotly pursued in statehouses around the country.

Previously SF20, the Wyoming law makes violations a primary offense, meaning law enforcement could pull over drivers solely for texting. Offenders would face $75 fines.

Critics questioned whether Wyoming needed a law specifying that texting while driving is against the law. They pointed out the state already has laws on the books prohibiting careless driving and distracted driving. Others said the texting ban will be difficult to enforce.

Supporters said many laws are difficult to enforce, but that is no reason to reject it. They also said a ban would send a message to the public that texting is unsafe.

Attempts to curtail distracted driving are increasing in popularity throughout the nation. 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. Among the states nearing passage of texting bans are Alabama, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Distracted driving is also getting a lot of attention at the federal level. Already this year, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood made text messaging while driving off-limits for commercial drivers.

At the U.S. Capitol, four bills that are being considered would make texting off-limits for drivers of all vehicles.

Two bills push states to adopt texting bans under threat of losing out on 25 percent of their federal highway funds if they don’t act. Two other bills encourage states to take action by offering $30 million in grants for passing laws to curb distracted driving. OOIDA favors this approach.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Wyoming in 2010, 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.