More states act to reduce ‘distracted driving’

| Friday, June 10, 2011

The list of states to prohibit all drivers from texting while at the wheel continues to grow.

Maine recently became the 33rd state to outlaw the practice. Meanwhile, lawmakers in other states continue to pursue their own texting bans.

Gov. Paul LePage signed into law a bill to outlaw the distracting practice on Maine roadways. The state already has a distracted driving law, which prohibits any activity that isn’t necessary to the operation of the vehicle and that could reasonably be expected to impair the driver.

Effective this September, the new law singles out texting while driving. Violators would face $100 fines.

LePage said drivers are seen all too often trying to multitask as they head down the road.

“Texting is addictive, and doing it while you are driving is very dangerous,” LePage said in a statement. “Making this dangerous behavior a violation is a good way to get people to recognize the seriousness of the activity.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood praised the bill signing. He called it a “crucial step to improve safety and save lives on Maine roads.”

Efforts to curb the distracted driving practice await the signatures of governors in Nevada and Texas.

In Nevada, a bill includes the texting provision, but it goes a step further to limit devices used to talk with while driving. The ban would make Nevada the ninth state to prohibit use of hand-held cell phones while at the wheel.

The Texas version is intended to reduce occurrences of distracted driving. It forbids texting, instant messaging and emailing. In addition to fines, violators would face a license suspension, community supervision and completion of a driving safety course.

Pennsylvania lawmakers must settle their differences in a similar effort. The Senate approved a bill to make text messaging and talking on hand-held cell phones by drivers a primary offense, which would authorize police to pull over drivers solely for texting.

The bill now moves to the House where a separate effort does not include the hand-held cell phone provision.

During the past year, about a dozen states have acted to outlaw the distracted driving practice. In the past few weeks, the governors in Indiana and North Dakota have added their states to the list where texting is a no-no while behind the wheel.

The Indiana law takes effect July 1. North Dakota’s ban kicks in Aug. 1.

In addition to action at statehouses, texting has also been a topic of discussion at the federal level. A federal rule that bans the practice while driving a commercial vehicle was issued a year ago.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association supports the federal ban, but OOIDA opposes the next step being taken by the FMCSA to restrict drivers’ use of hand-held cellphones.

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the story topic. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.

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