States enact, pursue ‘texting’ bans while driving

| 12/28/2010

With the first of the year only four days away, lawmakers from around the country are lining up to offer legislation that is intended to eliminate texting while driving among the distractions while at the wheel. Meanwhile, three states are set to start ticketing violators of texting bans.

Law enforcement officers in Kansas and Kentucky can start handing out citations for reading, writing or sending text messages while at the wheel on Saturday, Jan. 1. Officers in both states have been issuing warnings to offenders since the summer.

Violators will face $60 and $25 fines, respectively.

On Sunday, Jan. 2, drivers in Delaware will no longer be able to text while behind the wheel without running the risk of a $50 ticket.

Nearly a dozen states acted during the past year to forbid texting while behind the wheel. It appears to be a trend that will not slow anytime soon. In all, there are 30 states that have outlawed the practice.

Among the states that are expected to aggressively pursue legislation during the next year are Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller has endorsed the plan to ban texting while driving. A bill awaiting consideration would prohibit drivers from texting and talking on a hand-held phone. Violators would face up to $500 fines.

Indiana law already bars drivers 18 and younger from texting.

Despite the obvious complexities with enforcement, attempts nationwide to curb the practice of using electronic devices for texting while driving have intensified during the past couple of years. Studies that show drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash while texting at the wheel have fed the appetite for state bans.

The topic of texting has also been a topic of discussion at the federal level. A federal rule that bans the practice while driving a commercial was issued earlier this year.

Punishment for violators packs a punch. Drivers face up to $2,750 fines while carriers face up to $11,000 fines.

In addition, four other regulatory actions are being considered that target driver distractions, including an effort to ban cell phone use.

OOIDA leadership supports a ban on texting while driving for all vehicle operators but wants the playing field to be fair. The Association intends to file comments to help keep the rules fair for small businesses.

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