Archive for Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Kansas Senate takes up bill to ban texting while driving

February 16, 2010, 11:37 a.m. Updated February 17, 2010, 12:00 a.m.


— A proposal to prevent dozens of fatalities on Kansas’ roads by strengthening the seat belt law won the approval Tuesday of the state Senate, and a separate measure to ban texting while driving cleared one of its committees.

The seat belt bill, which passed 26-14, would require any adult in a vehicle to buckle up and doubles the fine they would face for violating the law to $60, starting June 30. Senators’ approval sent the measure to the House, which has been skeptical of such proposals in the past.

Kansas’ current seat belt law applies to adults only when they are in a vehicle’s front seat, and a police officer must stop a vehicle for another reason, such a speeding, before ticketing someone for not wearing a seat belt. The bill would permit officers to stop a vehicle only for a seat belt violation.

“It’s about safety,” said Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Dwayne Umbarger, a Thayer Republican.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed a bill that would make it a traffic infraction to text while driving, which could lead to a fine. A second offense could lead to a six-month jail sentence.

The anti-texting bill covers pagers, cell phones, laptop computers, personal digital assistants and text messaging devices. The proposed ban has exceptions for checking the weather or traffic updates or for making an emergency call to report criminal activity or a traffic hazard.

Gov. Mark Parkinson’s office estimates that the seat belt bill would save an estimated 25 lives a year in Kansas. No estimates were available for the potential effect of a ban on texting while driving.

Nineteen other states have banned texting for all drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. The same group says 30 states have “primary” seat belt laws, allowing law enforcement officers to stop a vehicle if someone hasn’t buckled up.

During the Judiciary Committee’s discussion, Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, a Shawnee Republican, questioned whether a texting ban can be effectively enforced. Opponents of the seat belt bill argued that it represents a greater level of intrusion into people’s daily lives — which many Kansans resent.

“It’s just another whittling away of a little bit of our freedom,” said Sen. Ty Masterson, an Andover Republican, who voted against it.

Such sentiments have kept a tougher seat belt law from winning House approval in past years. House Transportation Committee Chairman Gary Hayzlett, a Lakin Republican, opposes changing the current law.

“It doesn’t have the support in the House that it has in the Senate, but you never know — from year to year, things change,” Hayzlett said.

Kansas law requires any adult riding in the front seat and child passengers aged 8 years through 14 to wear seat belts. Most younger children are required to ride in special booster seats.

In recent years, the federal government has promised Kansas extra highway dollars if it strengthens its seat belt law. The Department of Transportation expects to receive an additional $11 million this year if the bill passes.

But Umbarger said the extra money would be only “frosting on the cake,” not the main reason for passing the bill.

Parkinson, who supports strengthening the law, said there was a bigger incentive in avoiding traffic deaths and the costs associated with property damage, health care costs and lost productivity from accidents.

“If we can save lives and lower costs, it makes sense that we should take action,” he said in a statement.


stephenj 8 years, 4 months ago

This is complete bs. What a waste of time on an unenforceable law.... Let's start doing things that matter and stop worrrying about novelty lighters, K2, texting, evolution, sex after twelve, etc.

somedude20 8 years, 4 months ago

novelty lighters- banned k2- almost banned

leaving the scene of an accident/hit and run (with a fatality) due to the driver being drunk only to get a slap on the wrist instead of tougher laws because the Kansas Legislature was wasting its time with stupid hillbilly laws- priceless

Stuart Evans 8 years, 4 months ago

so this makes it sounds like the bill is for texting, but then it goes on to give examples of when it will be ok to make a call. does this mean that all use of a personal device will be illegal? what about MP3 players? what if our mp3 player is in our phone? what about the yahoos fiddling with their GPS? between the cops watching for seatbelts and people with their hands in their laps, doesn't seem like they will have much time to solve real crimes.

But above all.. this is a stupid waste of time. The laws are very clear already about inattentive driving. and that's what texting and driving is.

Zachary Stoltenberg 8 years, 4 months ago

This bill doesn't go far enough. They need to require hands free devices for all drivers using phones. And it's already illegal to listen to your MP3 Player unless it's playing through your radio (seen quite a few idiots on k10 with earbuds in) I drive that stretch every day, and at least twice a week see someone I suspect is drunk, until I pass them and see them texting. I have also been involved in an accident where the driver who hit me was texting. (proved when the officer looked at her phone and compared it to the time I made the call to the dispatcher. It's a step in the right direction, it IS enforcable, but it won't completely solve the problem.

Stuart Evans 8 years, 4 months ago

people have also been killed by women (and maybe some men) applying makeup. by people scolding kids in the backseat. by people reading the sunday paper. by hot coffee spilled on their lap. and by hundreds of other stupid things that people do on a daily basis. If there were some actual figures to back up the texting while driving concerns, then maybe I'd be on board. or perhaps instead of legislating again, they could spend the time and money to come up with an advertising campaign that would remind people of the dangers of inattentive driving. then you don't have 20 different laws to cover what 1 existing law already does.

Chris Ogle 8 years, 4 months ago

"The laws are very clear already about inattentive driving. and that's what texting and driving is. "

good point

Vinny1 8 years, 4 months ago

This is a completely unenforceable law. I get pulled over for "texting and driving" the cop has ZERO way to prove I was. I tell him I was looking up the weather, or looking at directions, or finding a song to play, or finding a contact in my phone to call. He can't prove anything, and all of those are legal with this law. This is 100% not enforceable.

Just another waste of time by Kansas legislature. K2, novelty lighters, and on and on. Spend some time on some real issues such as school funding.

Andrew Kong 8 years, 4 months ago

So, I could just end all of my text messages with, "How's the weather?"

madameX 8 years, 4 months ago

I don't think this is quite as unenforceable as some might think. The cop who pulls you over might not actually see you texting if you're quick enough, but it is possible to check the time you were pulled over and check the time your last text went out. If they're within a couple minutes of each other, chances are you were texting and driving. And if this law were in place I'm sure that's something they would check in the instance of an accident if they had reason to believe the driver was distracted by texting: if they sent or viewed a text within a few minutes of the accident. Even without the law, I would have expected it to fall into the category of inattentive driving.

Chocoholic 8 years, 4 months ago

@AlfVenison LOL! It is now. Words evolve. "Friend" wasn't a verb either, but it's a verb in common usage now since facebook came along.

Texting is inattentive driving on steroids. There's something about it that, to me, seems to it rank close to the top of the list of other forms of inattentiveness common in driving situations. You're driving with one hand, reading and looking for the tiny little letter keys as you're typing with your thumb with the other hand...recipe for disaster.

Not sure we need a separate law specifically for it though. Inattentive driving laws should cover it.

Matt Needham 8 years, 4 months ago

Ahhh, now cutting all the school funding makes sense. We'll all be much safer when no one can spell.

softtalker 8 years, 4 months ago

I really think this is pointless, how many people will just put their phone's down when they see a cop, or if they are getting pulled over say they were about to make a phone call they weren't texting, or pull up the weather. I don't see this stopping anyone from texting while driving, maybe make them a little bit more aware of their surroundings but thats all.

mr_right_wing 8 years, 4 months ago

Why do we not have self-driving cars? All the technology is there. You can drive around with a little gizmo that tells you exactly where to turn, and sensors can be put in a car to tell if something is in front, back or on the side of you. So why is there not a car with voice recognition software that would simply allow you to tell the car your destination and it does the rest of the work. There's your solution, that is going to be a whole lot more safe and accurate than a very easily distracted human.

storm 8 years, 4 months ago

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gogoplata 8 years, 4 months ago

Call your state senator or and ask them to vote against this sillyness.

grimpeur 8 years, 4 months ago

Simple solution: when a cop sees someone driving while talking on the phone, the cop should write them a ticket. A big one.

Why wait until after the accident to cite for inattentive driving, following too closely, or failing to yield?

Good grief, there is nothing (and nobody) that is so important as to be permitted to continue endangering other people.

yellowjayhawk 8 years, 4 months ago


Are you suggesting that someone who gets pulled over for suspicion of texting-while-driving should automatically be required to hand over their personal property for inspection by law enforcement officers?

I don't know about anyone else, but I'd prefer that my personal cell phone and/or PDA be kept private - no police officer should have the right to trifle through my personal information because s/he suspects I was texting.

madameX 8 years, 4 months ago

no, yellowjayhawk, I wasn't suggesting that, and I wasn't even referring to the phone itself, I was referring to the records of texts sent and received that are kept by the carrier. I was just pointing out that the records exist and could probably be viewed by law enforcement if they were able to prove suspicion that a law had been broken. It was in response to all the posters who seem to think that texting leaves no trace.

vega 8 years, 4 months ago

Healthcare_Moocher (anonymous) says... "At least a drunk is usually watching the road."


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