Under 18 texting illegal while driving

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By The Staff

FRANKFORT - Gov. Steve Beshear has signed House Bill 415 into law - banning texting for all drivers and cell phone use for drivers under 18.

In December 2009, Gov. Beshear launched his Eyes on the Road effort - an executive order prohibiting text messaging by state employees who are driving government-owned vehicles.

Kentucky recorded more than 57,000 crashes last year due to driver distraction, inattention and cell phone use. Gov. Beshear believes the new law ties in perfectly with the nationwide effort to reduce distracted driving crashes.

“The ban on texting will help increase awareness and encourage drivers to stay focused on the task at hand,” Gov. Beshear said. “Safety is a top priority of this administration and we will continue our efforts to reduce fatalities on Kentucky roadways.”

The law bans texting for drivers of all ages while the vehicle is in motion. For drivers over 18, it allows the use of global positioning devices and reading, selecting or entering a telephone number or name for the purpose of making a phone call.

Texting is allowed only to report illegal activity or to request medical or emergency aid.

For drivers under 18, no use of personal communication devices such as cell phones and pagers is allowed while the vehicle is in motion. The use of a global positioning system is allowed, but manually entering information must be completed while the vehicle is stopped.

Emergency and public safety vehicles are exempt when the use of a personal communication device is essential to the operator’s official duties.

“I thank God for allowing the House and the Senate to be able to agree upon and to pass at least one highway safety bill that is guaranteed to save lives,” said Rep. Tom Riner, of Louisville, sponsor of the bill.“If citizens knew all the obstacles facing its passage, they would agree that the final passage of HB 415 was nothing short of a miracle.”

“I fought hard to see legislation to ban texting while driving get through the process simply because I believed - and still believe - it is important legislation that will not only save lives, but has the opportunity to train generations of new drivers with safer driving habits,” said Sen. Denise Harper-Angel, of Louisville. “These younger drivers will be prohibited from using cell phones during the first six months of their driving experience. I am thrilled that we have finally taken steps to reduce accidents related to texting.”

“The ban on texting while driving contained in House Bill 415 is another strategy to save lives on Kentucky’s roadways,” said Rep. Jody Richards, of Bowling Green. “Of particular importance are the provisions which will help teach beginning drivers safe driving habits.”

Law enforcement officers will issue warnings until Jan. 1, 2011. On or after January 1, violators will be liable for fines of $25 on a first offense and $50 on each subsequent offense, plus court costs.

There were 791 fatalities on Kentucky roadways in 2009, declining for the fourth consecutive year.

More than 200 of those fatalities were attributed to distraction, inattention or cell phone use.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving distracted drivers, and more than a half million were injured. Inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.

Kentucky is the 22nd state to ban texting while driving. Twelve states banned texting while driving in 2009. So far in 2010, Iowa and Wyoming have similar laws. Legislation is pending in various other states.