Nebraska is latest state to outlaw texting while driving; other states pursue rule

| 4/15/2010

The feds already prohibit truckers from texting while driving. Meanwhile, the list of states to forbid all drivers from the practice of reading, writing or typing text messages continues to grow.

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman signed a bill into law this week that bans texting and driving. As of July 1, texting while at the wheel will be a secondary offense, meaning police officers couldn’t pull over potential violators without suspecting them of breaking another law.

Violators would face $200 fines. Repeat offenders would face $300 fines while subsequent offenses would result in $500 fines. Each violation would assess three points against a person’s driver’s license.

State law already forbids teen drivers with provisional licenses, learner’s permits or school permits from texting or talking on cell phones. Violations are secondary offenses.

Nebraska becomes the 22nd state to outlaw texting while driving for all drivers. That number is expected to climb in the days, weeks and months ahead. In recent weeks the governors in Iowa and Wyoming have signed into law texting bans. Similar efforts are awaiting signatures from the governors in Kentucky and Wisconsin while more states continue to discuss the issue.

Critics question whether rules are needed specifying that texting while driving is against the law. They point out that states already have laws on the books prohibiting careless driving and distracted driving. Others say texting bans are difficult to enforce.

Supporters say there are many laws that are difficult to enforce, but that is no reason to ignore the problem. They also say a ban sends a message to the public that texting is unsafe.

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

In recent weeks the U.S. DOT unveiled a proposal that would elevate texting while driving a truck or bus to its most serious category.

If approved, three violations in a three-year period would result in a 120-day suspension – the same penalty truck drivers face if they’ve been cited for violation of state or local laws in connection with three fatality wrecks during that same time period.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Nebraska, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

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