Proposed legislation targeted at cracking down on distracted driving

Proposed distracted driving bill
Proposed distracted driving bill
Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 7:29 PM EST
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LAWRENCE, Ky. (WSAZ) - Distracted driving is one of the fastest-growing safety issues on the roads.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driver distraction is the leading factor in most crashes. Nearly 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes involve some form of distraction within three seconds before the event.

“It seems to be when you’re on the roads, you will have a lot of people swerving back and forth on the roadway and the center line and things of that nature. Nine times out of ten, you will see a cellphone in someone’s hand,” said Trooper Shane Goodall, public information officer with Kentucky State Police. “There’s not a phone call or text or anything on Facebook that is so important that they need to look at it while driving. It can wait.”

Goodall stressed the significance of that to students at Lawrence County High School during a simulator lesson Wednesday. In the simulator, students got behind the wheel and then were asked to pay attention to their phones while continuing to operate the vehicle simulator.

Kentucky State Police fight every day to crack down on distracted driving.

“We see children playing video games anymore, you can watch DVDs on your car’s radio or dash. There are so many different ways of distracted driving, it’s hard to combat them all,” Goodall said. “Everybody thinks the phone is the primary reason, but I have seen it quite often in the mornings -- people who are late for work and doing their makeup while driving, or trying to organize papers. It’s not the time or place to be doing that.”

Lawmakers are also considering proposed legislation that would tighten state law and push to become a hands-free state regarding personal communication devices.

Rep. James Tipton, R-Taylorsville, testified before the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation in November about his intentions to file a bill for the 2022 legislative session that would only allow the hands-free use of a personal communication device while driving.

Under this proposed legislation, personal communication devices are defined as a text messaging device, a stand-alone computer, a tablet, a laptop, a notebook computer, a personal digital assistant, a GPS system, a telephone, or any device capable of displaying a video, movie, or visual image.

The measure would make using your hands to operate a personal communication device while driving illegal. It would also prohibit drivers from unbuckling their seatbelt to reach for a device.

Drivers can, however, use a hands-free Bluetooth device to make phone calls while driving.

Lawmakers cannot make any decisions on any proposed legislation until the next legislative session begins on Jan. 4. Tipton said if the general assembly adopts this measure, there would be a grace period until Oct. 1, 2022, where drivers would receive a warning.

After the grace period, drivers would be fined at least $50 but no more than $100 for a first or second offense, according to a draft of the bill request. On a third offense or if the offense results in an accident, the penalty would be at least $100 but no more than $199. If the offense occurs in an active school zone or construction zone, the penalty would be at least $200 but no more than $250. Traffic school would be allowed for a first offense.

Tipton sponsored similar legislation during the 2020 legislative session. House Bill 255 didn’t make it to a floor vote in either chamber.

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