State Watch
More states move to ban texting while driving

By Keith Goble
state legislative editor


A lot of chatter has filled statehouses and Congress this year about curbing the practice of text messaging while driving. The trend doesn’t appear likely to slow anytime soon.

In recent weeks, the governors in Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Wyoming have signed bills into law outlawing the reading, typing or sending of text messages. Georgia, Connecticut and Vermont are nearing completion of legislation to do the same while still more states continue to advance proposed texting bans.

As of early May, 25 states had taken the step, which is intended to curb the growing driver distraction. It is arguably the most accepted effort among states to improve safety on roadways since the push to reduce the blood-alcohol level for motorists to 0.08 percent.

About a half-dozen states had acted at the start of 2008 to prohibit texting while driving. By the end of 2009, 12 more states were added to the list. Land Line research has found that actions at statehouses this year could approach, if not exceed, what was witnessed a year ago.

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 and distracted driving. Others say texting bans are difficult to enforce.

Supporters say 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. While the feds already prohibit truckers from texting while driving, the U.S. Department of Transportation wants to put the hammer down on truckers’ use of the mobile devices. The agency recently 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. LL