Drivers who text behind the wheel should take notice— and not just because of the potential $200 fine implemented by LB945, according to Buffalo County Attorney Shawn Eatherton. You can be fined up to $500 for subsequent offenses and lose points against your license for texting and driving.
Eatherton warns drivers, “You can talk on your phone, but the texting and those types of things can get you in trouble. But more importantly one thing we don’t want to have is somebody get into an accident and get injured or killed."
Distracted driving can mean taking your eyes off the road, taking your hands off the wheel or taking your mind off what you are doing. Texting is particularly troubling because it involves all three.
Of the 2009 distracted driving fatalities, 995 were attributed to cell phone distractions and drivers under 20 had the highest proportion of distracted driving according to the Traffic Safety Facts.
LB945, passed April 13 by the State Legislature prohibits texting of any kind: “…no person shall use a handheld wireless communication device to read, manually type or send a written communication while operating a motor vehicle which is in motion.”
This does not apply to a person operating a motor vehicle in an emergency, according to the bill.
Fines for violating this law are $200 for the first offense, $300 for the second and $500 for all subsequent offenses.
Eatherton said that the loss of points is the most serious penalty for a violation. “For each time you’re convicted, it will access three points against your license, which has major impact on whether you can drive at all, and it certainly has a major impact on insurance rates.”
Accumulating 12 points in a two-year period causes automatic revocation of the operator’s license for six months.
Drivers cannot be pulled over for texting, because the law makes the citation a secondary action, meaning the person must first be cited and pulled over for another offense.
Still Eatherton says texting can lead to more serious violations. “If somebody gets into an accident or puts people in danger, they still could be prosecuted for careless or reckless driving, which are very serious offenses. A conviction for reckless driving assesses five points to the driver’s license and careless driving assesses four.
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