MHP asks for teeth to be added to distracted driving law

Published 7:00 am Friday, January 13, 2017

Even though a law was passed a year and a half ago, people can still be seen operating a motor vehicle, but not looking out their windshield.

Instead, their eyes are down, staring at a cellphone, all while traveling at a high rate of speed in a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds.

Common sense would say that keeping your eyes on the road while operating such a large piece of machinery would precede any need to check social media feeds, check an email or read a text message.

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Since the $100 fee is not enough to deter drivers from operating their vehicles in a dangerous manner, representatives with the Mississippi Highway Patrol are pushing for more teeth to the law.

First, they want the offense to be listed as criminal instead of civil, which would prompt municipal law enforcement agencies to write more of the tickets.

According to coverage by The Clarion-Ledger, Capt. Johnny Poulos said municipal law

enforcement agencies avoid writing a ticket for texting while driving because the civil nature of the offense prevents them from filing it in a municipal court.

Additionally, troopers that write a ticket for the texting while driving offense have to file an affidavit with Justice Court, which could be a drive of 50 miles or more, typically out of their jurisdiction.

Another problem with the law is that it only states it’s illegal to text or post to social media, not play a game or surf the web, which gives drivers a means to argue with the officer.

It’s clear that no matter what task is being conducted on a cellphone while driving, it distracts the operator from what’s most important, the road.

The law needs to be more clear, and there needs to be an avenue to allow municipal officers to file offenses in municipal court, but maybe not by increasing the offense from civil to criminal.