Bill would address distracted driving

Texting while driving would be a primary offense under a bill heard by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee Feb. 9.

Under LB668, introduced by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist, a driver with a provisional operator’s permit, learner’s permit or school permit and school bus drivers could be ticketed by law enforcement for talking on a cell phone or texting while driving.

Currently, this is treated as a secondary offense and can be enforced only if the driver is pulled over for a separate primary offense.

Krist said that most states currently consider texting while driving a primary offense.

“I didn’t realize before I started researching this how far behind [Nebraska is] to the rest of the country,” he said. “We need to make sure this is considered a serious offense.”

Under the bill, drivers holding a traditional driver license still could talk on the phone while driving but would be restricted from reading, typing or sending a written communication on their device.

Laurie Klosterboer, executive director of the Nebraska Safety Council, supported the bill. She said a survey conducted by her organization found that more than 90 percent of respondents support making texting while driving a primary offense.

“Most people recognize that texting while behind the wheel is a dangerous activity and would support moving the law from a secondary to primary law,” she said. “We have teens that are novice drivers. We need to make sure they’re focused on the driving task at hand and make sure they’re not texting behind the wheel.”

LB668 also would make a primary offense the operation of a vehicle that does not provide a proper child passenger restraint system for passengers younger than six years old or a seatbelt for each passenger aged six to 18.

No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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