Rhode Island legislators first enacted their texting while driving ban two years ago in an effort to convince drivers to avoid unneeded distractions behind the wheel. Since then, however, the state has issued just 600 tickets and collected more than $35,000 in fines, not enough, say some Rhode Island lawmakers.
If the proposed bill passes Rhode Island will have the strongest penalties in the nation with regards to texting behind the wheel. The new bill would require anyone caught texting behind the wheel to install a special device in their vehicle which would inhibit their ability to call any number on a cell phone except 9-1-1. Drivers who fail to install such a device would have their driving privileges suspended for one full year on the first offense, two full years for a second offense. The new law would also be written to prevent judges from suspending that portion of the punishment so no one would be able to get around it.
Already some are saying the new law goes too far and violates the civil liberties of people living in the state. There are also some questions about how the law would be enforced for those visiting the state from some where else.
Many questions remain unanswered, but one thing seems certain: Rhode Island lawmakers are not going to allow texting and driving in their state if they can help it.