As the debate over the dangers of texting and driving continues to rage, so to are those who have the evidence which shows quite clearly that fatal collisions caused by distracted driving are continuing to rise. This is providing ammunition to state legislators who seek to curtail this behavior with fines and punishments which fit the crime.
Right now 38 states have laws on the books which address the problem of distracted driving. Some states ban the use of all handheld devices by drivers for any reason while other states have focused on specific aspects of distracted driving such as texting while driving. In the 12 states where no such laws exist there are efforts currently underway to create and approve such laws.
In states where these laws already exist efforts are underway to make the penalties even more severe. Legislators are proposing laws which would increase the fines for texting and driving (or distracted driving, where that is the ban) and provide harsher penalties in general.
In New Jersey, the state Senate Law and Public Safety Committee approved a measure this month that would increase fines for handheld cellphone use, including texting, from $100 to $200 for the first offense. Offenders could have their driver’s license suspended for 90 days for the third and ensuing violations. The bill will next be heard by the Senate Budget Committee. Elsewhere:
>> The California Senate approved a bill in May that would cost drivers caught texting or talking without a hands-free device $30 for a first offense — a $10 increase — and $60 for a subsequent offense, up from $50. The bill goes next to the Assembly.
>> Connecticut last year increased fines for using handheld cellphones and text messaging while driving, from the previous $100 to $125 for the first offense, $150 to $250 for the second, and $200 to $400 for the third and subsequent violations.