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Nebraska legislature cracks down on texting while driving
Abby Richter
Antelope Staff

I’m sure many of us are guilty of this driving violation, even if it puts our lives in danger. This very common habit is about six times more likely to cause a car accident than drunk driving.

What is this madness? It’s texting while driving. Despite the risks, the majority of teen drivers ignore cell phone driving restrictions. In 2007, driver distractions, such as using a cell phone or text messaging, contributed to nearly 1,000 crashes involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers.

Because accident records indicated danger, Nebraska legislature passed a law in 2007 that bans people under the age of 18 from texting and talking on their cell phones while driving. The sponsor of that measure, Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff, also introduced the 2010 bill to expand the law. Harms proposed making texting while driving a primary offense for all drivers, which means people could get pulled over and fined if seen texting on their cell phones while behind the wheel. Violators would face fines of $200 to $500 and could lose three points on their diver’s license.

Katie Lee, a UNK sophomore sports administration major from York, believes passing this bill will do little to no good. “Even if the bill would get passed to be a primary offense, it’s not like the law enforcement can regulate every driver on the road,” she said. “People are still going to text and drive as long as they’re getting away with it.”

While some believe the bill would be hard to enforce, Harms begs to differ. “People in law enforcement have told me they can usually tell when people are texting while behind the wheel,” Harms said. “Just having the law would make people aware of the decisions they are making.”

But Harms was not successful in trying to pass his driving-while-texting bill (LB945) as a primary offense. On  Wednesday, March 31, the lawmakers of Nebraska passed an amendment to make texting while driving a so called secondary offense, much like the state’s seatbelt law. In this case, drivers will have to get pulled over for a primary offense, such as speeding, before being ticketed for texting.  

Senator Kent Rogert of Tekamah proposed this amendment, and it was passed on a 25-16 vote. “The bill as written would not stop people from texting, and it would give law enforcement a reason to pull people over– especially young men,” Rogert said. The senators who agreed with Rogert didn’t believe that the bill would be enforceable, and they also had concerns about using texting as an excuse to pull people over and cause racial profiling.

Harms believes that making the bill a secondary offense sends the wrong message. “If it’s not important enough to be a primary offense, it’s not important enough to enforce,” Harms said.

As technology advances with voice-to-text functions, senators hope this problem of texting while driving will be solved and the number of accidents resulting from it will be reduced.

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