Total Ban for Teen Drivers

The House passed a bill last Monday that would ban teen drivers from operating any electronic communication or entertainment device that is not permanently installed in the vehicle while driving. The ban came in the form of an amendment to the “texting bill” on its bounce back from the Senate.

The original version of the texting bill passed the House 65 – 31 and prohibited all drivers from writing and sending text messages while driving. The texting bill then passed the Senate 44 – 6, but was amended to also prohibit the reading of text messages. On Monday, after suspending the rules, the House passed a strike-after amendment to the texting bill and then again passed the bill 55 – 41 with the teen driver amendment.

The strike-after amendment makes the total device ban apply only to teen drivers who have a special license. These licenses include instructional permits, intermediate licenses, school and work permits, and other special licenses. The amendment bans these young drivers from using any electronic communication or entertainment device while driving unless the vehicle is at a complete stop off the traveled portion or the roadway. The amendment makes an exception for any equipment that is permanently installed in the vehicle, or equipment that is operated through permanently installed equipment. This prohibition means that teen drivers cannot talk on their cell phones, text message, use portable GPS systems, or operate ipods that are not controlled by the vehicle’s stereo system while driving.

The amendment also includes preemption language that requires the uniform implementation of the law throughout the state. It directs that no county or municipal ordinance related to the use of electronic communication or entertainment devices may be adopted or continued in effect.

The Senate quickly rejected the House changes and the bill is now in conference committee.