Texting while driving is already a no-no for truckers. A new law in Michigan prohibits all drivers from the distracting task while Georgia and Wisconsin are poised to follow suit.
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm was featured on “The Oprah Show” Friday, April 30, in a live remote – putting her signature on a three-bill package to ban texting while driving in the state.
As of July 1, officers in Michigan will be authorized to pull over drivers they suspect of reading, typing or sending text messages. Violators would face $100 fines. Repeat offenders would be on the hook for $200. Exceptions would be made for emergencies.
Revenue from the fines would be routed to public libraries.
Michigan is the 24th state to outlaw texting while driving for all drivers. The list of states is expected to grow in the coming days as bills in Georgia and Wisconsin await their governor’s signature.
In Georgia, state lawmakers spent time on the final day of the session Thursday, April 29, to finalize legislation that would ban texting while driving for all motorists and to prohibit any cell phone use for the state’s youngest drivers.
Violators would face $150 fines and one point against their driver’s license. The fine would double if an accident results from texting while driving. Both bills make exceptions for the use of CB radios or GPS navigation devices.
Gov. Sonny Perdue is expected to sign the restrictions into law, which would take effect July 1.
The Wisconsin bill on Gov. Jim Doyle’s desk would forbid the use of text messaging devices for all drivers. Offenders would face fines ranging from $20 to $400. Exceptions would be made for GPS devices and emergencies.
In addition, teaching about text messaging and distracted driving would be required in driver education classes.
Once signed by the governor, the new law will take effect in seven months.
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.
States with texting bans for all drivers that are enforced as primary offenses: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky (effective July 13), Maryland, Michigan (effective July 1), Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Washington (effective June 10) and Wyoming (effective July 1).
Texting bans that are enforced as secondary offenses for all drivers: Iowa (effective July 1), Louisiana, Nebraska (effective July 1), New York and Virginia.
States with texting bans solely for novice drivers: Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Texas and West Virginia. Each state enforces rule as a primary offense.
Source: Governors Highway Safety Association
– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor
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