Senate Passes Total Texting While Driving Ban


The Senate passed a bill restricting texting while driving on state highways yesterday.

The Mississippi Senate wants to expand a ban on texting while driving to include everyone in the state.

Senate Bill 2793, which survived a Thursday vote on the Senate floor, restricts a person from operating a motor vehicle on a highway while using a wireless electronic communication device "to manually type or send or to read a written communication while the motor vehicle is in motion."

The bill does not restrict a driver from dialing a number or receiving a call on a phone, and also does not restrict a driver from using either hand to "activate, deactivate or initiate a function of a wireless electronic communication device."

The bill repeals an earlier law restricting persons with an intermediate license, a temporary learning permit or a temporary driving permit from driving on the highway while sending or receiving messages on an electronic communication device. Gov. Haley Barbour signed that legislation into law in 2009 as part of a law to increase from six month to one year the minimum period of time that a driver's license applicant must hold a temporary driving permit.

Senate Bill 2793 would make the act of sending or reading written communication a misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $500. The fine increases up to $1,000, if authorities determine an electronic transmission was a factor in a vehicle accident.

The bill proved popular in the Senate, with only Sens. Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, and Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, voting against it.

The Associated Press reported that Sen. Terry Brown, R-Columbus, had misgivings about privacy issues, and asked whether police would be able to confiscate a driver's cell phone for evidence, in the event of a vehicle crash. The Associated Press reported that Brown questioned if police officer behavior regarding the new texting law would be consistent over the state.

Mississippi Safety Services certified safety instructor John Brodbeck said he knew of countless stories of crashes caused by texting and did not describe the new bill as government intrusion.

"You may as well ask why we have speeding laws, or stop signs, or red lights," Brodbeck said. "You take your eyes off the road on average for about six seconds while texting. At 55 miles-per-hour, you travel 80 feet per second. Look off the road for six seconds and that's 480 feet you've traveled. That's longer than a football field."

Brodbeck further stated that legislators should be working to limit cell phone conversations on state highways as well: "I ask my driving class how many of them have left the road while on their cell phone, and about half of them will raise their hand--and that's just the honest ones," Brodbeck said. "I get one out of every 20 (students) that have had a wreck because of their phone. One guy said it was like waking upside down in a ditch, hanging by his seatbelt, with a phone in his hand."

Senate Bill 2793 now goes to the House, where Rep. John Mayo, D-Clarksdale, who is in support of the bill, said he believed the bill would likely pass a House floor vote it if made it out of committee. Mayo said many highway safety bills go to the House Transportation Committee, which has rarely passed Mayo's own vehicle safety-related bills.

"There are many representatives who consider restrictions on texting while driving and requirements to wear seatbelts an infringement upon their rights. They don't see it as a safety issue," Mayo said. "The real fight I think is going to happen in the Transportation Committee. I've submitted bills that restricted children from riding in the back of a pick-up truck. The truck hits a bump and the kid topples out and suffers brain injury--they feel that that is an infringement upon a right."

Mayo said if the bill would stand a better chance in the House Judiciary B Committee.

Previous Comments


It should apply to everyone. Ban texting while driving. Wish they'd ban talking on cell phones while driving, too, but it'll take more fatalities to get to that one.



Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment