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States Are Strengthening Texting While Driving Laws Across The Country

The anti-texting message is taking hold as lawmakers across the country have introduced bills to raise fines and stiffen penalties for driving while texting.

The various pieces of legislation come on the heels of a continuing stream of reports and studies that show that drivers are indifferent to the dangers of texting while driving. A recent report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety talked of a “culture of indifference.” The report found that while drivers basically agree that distracted driving is dangerous, they often engage in it themselves while driving.

Texting laws vary, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), texting while driving is currently banned in 39 states and the District of Columbia but the penalties will vary in each state.

Here are just a couple of states that are looking to strengthen their texting while driving laws:

Connecticut is Cracking Down

One of the more stringent laws is being discussed in Connecticut. Rep. Mitch Bolinsky (R-Newtown) introduced HB 5550 to the Committee on Transportation.

The bill would penalize repeat offenders with a month-long suspension of their license. Currently Connecticut drivers are prohibited from using handheld phones for calls or texting while driving. Hands free devices are acceptable but are prohibited for drivers under the age of 18.

In addition, the bill would incorporate the following penalties:

  • Two time offenders would lose their license for two days.
  • Three or more time offenders would have their license suspended for a month and it would only be reinstated after they had completed a retraining class.

During testimony Bolinksy said that he would like to use “e-enforcement” equipment such as police department vehicle mounted cameras to capture images of distracted drivers. He said, “Use and abuse is rampant, with state and local police resources stretched thin. I submit that it’s time to ‘think outside the box’ to save lives.”

The Connecticut DMV is concerned about the license suspension plan saying that it would dramatically increase the number of suspensions and the DMV does not have the resources or staff to deal with the huge increase.

Rep. Jason Perillo (R-Shelton) also introduced a bill, HB 5545 which would raise

fines associated with texting while driving. The bill proposes the following fines:

  • First-time offenders who currently face a $125 fine would see an increase to $200.
  • Second time offenders currently face a $250 fine which would increase to $300.
  • Third and over violators currently face a $400 fine and that would increase to $500.

Florida Joining the Texting Ban

While Florida currently has some of the loosest laws in regards to texting while driving, state lawmakers hope to change that. Currently Florida does not have a statewide ban on the use of hand held phones or texting while driving. The state also allows young and novice driver to us their phone while behind the wheel.

This puts Florida in the company of Hawaii, Montana, South Dakota and South Carolina who also do not have statewide bans.

Reps. Doug Holder and Ray Pilon (R-Sarasota) recently introduced HB13 which would ban texting while driving and also charge points to the licenses of drivers who were found to be texting while driving and were involved in an accident. It would add six points to a license putting it on the level of a hit and run. Putting six points on a license will drive up a consumers insurance premiums.

A companion bill, SB 52 would bar drivers from using any non-hands-free device while driving.

Virginia Looking to Stiffen Penalties

Virginia currently bans all drivers from texting while behind the wheel but wants to stiffen the penalties for violators. There are currently two bills working their way through the legislature.

SB 1222 would increase the fines for texting behind the wheel from a very low $20 to $250 for a first time offender. If it was your second or above violation the ticket would go from $50 up to $500. The bill also moves the violation to a primary offense which means that police can pull you over for texting alone.

States across the country are tightening up their texting while driving laws as studies have shown that drivers have an attitude of indifference to the dangers of distracted driving.