By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor
Only a month into the New Year and lawmakers from around the country are already moving forward with legislation that is intended to eliminate texting while driving among the distractions while at the wheel.
In the past couple of days there has been action in Indiana, Mississippi and Missouri to advance efforts to curb the practice.
Nearly a dozen states acted during the past year to forbid texting while behind the wheel. In all, there are 30 states that have outlawed the practice, with many more expected to aggressively pursue similar action in the months ahead.
In Indiana, texting while driving is already illegal for people under 18. The House voted to approve a bill that would apply the ban to all drivers. HB1129 now heads to the Senate.
Violators would face fines up to $500. Law enforcement could not confiscate a device to determine whether someone was texting while driving.
A Missouri Senate panel also endorsed a texting ban that would fine offenders $200. Similar to existing Indiana law, the Show-Me State prohibits drivers 21 years old and younger from engaging in the distracting activity.
The bill – SB11 – covering all drivers now moves to the full Senate for further consideration.
Also moving forward is a Mississippi bill to add all drivers to the state’s texting ban that now targets teen drivers. Violators would face $500 fines.
The Senate Judiciary B Committee forwarded the bill – SB2793 – to the Senate floor.
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 a year ago.
Punishment for violators packs a punch. Commercial drivers face up to $2,750 fines while carriers face up to $11,000 fines.
OOIDA leadership supports a ban on texting while driving for all vehicle operators and used the public-comment process to ensure the playing field remains fair for small-business truckers.
The Association is again advocating for fairness in a separate notice of proposed rulemaking – or NPRM – aimed at restricting truckers’ use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Public comments on the cell phone NPRM are due Feb. 22.
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