Texting while driving bill passes in the Senate

Published 6:57 am Friday, February 7, 2014

STOP IT: Texting while driving may become illegal. Photo by Alexandra Hedrick

STOP IT: Texting while driving may become illegal.
Photo by Alexandra Hedrick

The State Senate has passed a bill that would fine drivers who are caught sending a text message or checking a social media site while driving.

The bill states that sending a text message or checking social media sites while driving is considered careless driving.

The bill states, “every person convicted of careless driving shall be punished by a fine of not less than five dollars nor more than fifty dollars.”

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Current Mississippi law bans cell phone use, handheld and hands-free, for bus drivers, texting for bus drivers and novice drivers.

According to the U.S Government Website for Distracted Driving, 41 states ban text messaging for all drivers.

The website also states that a quarter of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive. Twenty percent of teens and 10 percent of parents also admitted they have extended, multi-message text conversations while driving.

Reaching for a phone, dialing and texting while driving increases the risk of getting into a crash by three times.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has said that cell phones are involved in 1.6 million accidents each year. Those accidents cause a half million injuries and kill 6,000 people a year.

The U.S. Dept. of Transportation asks that driver’s turn off cell phones when you turn on the ignition and if you’re a passenger, make sure the driver does the same.

Senator Tony Smith voted to approve the bill, while Senator Angela Burks Hill opposed the bill.

Smith said, “it was more of a feel good bill.”

He added that he voted for the bill because it helps him explain to his children the importance of not texting while driving.

Hill said the bill was a “slippery slope.”

“We already have a careless driving statute that one could be prosecuted under. Now we have opened it up for law enforcement to determine from their vehicle if someone is calling or texting,” Hill said. “So now one can get stopped and possibly ticketed even if they’re not driving careless or texting because an officer sees you with a phone, whether you are texting or calling or answering while driving. Even if you look at your phone you are guilty under this new statute.”

The bill will now go the House of Representatives for discussion, possible revisions and a vote.