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Published on Friday, April 14, 2017

Distracted driving bill passes out of the House

A bill expanding the definition of distracted driving, SB 5289, was voted out of the House on Wednesday. It will head back to the Senate for concurrence and, if concurred, will move on to the Governor’s Office.

Currently, a person is guilty of an infraction when operating a vehicle holding a cell phone to their ear or reading, writing, or sending a text message. This bill would repeal those sections of law and insert a new section creating an infraction when a person uses a cell phone while driving. The definition of “use” is broad and includes: (1) holding a cell phone in either hand or both hands; (2) using a hand to send, read, view, access, browse, transmit, save, or retrieve email, text messages, instant messages, photographs, or other electronic data; and (3) watching a video on a cell phone. The law would apply while a person is actively driving and while stopped at a red light or stop sign.

The bill also creates a secondary offense of dangerously distracted driving. It may only be applied when a driver has first been detained for a suspected violation of a separate traffic infraction or local ordinance. The receipts from this infraction must be used to pay for programs dedicated to reducing distracted driving.

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