Next week the House will consider a bill that would make texting while driving illegal. House File 2021 was passed by the House Transportation Committee by a vote of 20–1 and will be before the house as House File 2456.
The bill does not apply penalties to or make illegal the use of cell phones while driving or the use of global positioning systems or navigational systems while driving. It is only a ban on texting while driving.
The bill directs that it will be illegal for a person to text while actually driving a vehicle. This is an important distinction from the “operation” of a vehicle. A person can be parked in a parking lot or pulled over on the side of the road and still legally text. In those instances a person is operating a vehicle, but not driving a vehicle. Additionally, the bill specifically states that inputting a telephone number for the purpose of making a telephone call is not texting, and is therefore not banned.
A person found in violation of the ban will be guilty of a simple misdemeanor and will be required to pay a scheduled fine of $30 dollars. Warning citations will be issued from July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011 to allow for the public to become fully aware of the new prohibition.
However, if a person is involved in an accident that results in serious injury or death, and it is found that the person was violating the texting ban at the time of the accident, there are much harsher penalties. That person would be subject to a fine of $500 and/or a 90 day suspension of their license (serious injury) or a fine of $1,000 and/or a 180 day suspension of their license (death).
Violations of the texting ban are not considered when defining a habitual offender and the DOT will not consider texting violations when making a decision on a possible license suspension. Cities and counties are preempted from enacted ordinances having to do with texting to avoid confusion and complicated enforcement.