Faced with more than a dozen bills seeking an end to texting & driving in Mississippi, lawmakers cut the field to two plans — neither packing much of a punch.
The Senate on Feb. 5 approved a plan to include text messaging while driving as a type of careless driving. The fine would start at $5, but without the usual fees connected with a traffic offense. The maximum fine would be $50. The bill also would outlaw use of social media web sites.
SB 2434 now advances to the House, which has long reluctant to support distracted driving legislation.
What appears to be the main texting & driving legislation, SB 2613, from Sen. Sally Doty, died without fanfare in the Highways and Transportation Committee. Advocates of distracted driving laws were hoping a change of sponsors would further the effort to enact a texting law, but it wasn’t to be.
State Sen. Billy Hudson, who filed unsuccessful distracted driving measures for the past five sessions, was aboard as a co-sponsor.
“I believe that having several senators with different interests and constituencies may prove to be effective this year,” Doty told Hands Free Info before the committee actions.
During debate on SB 2434, State Sen. Chris McDaniel raised the usual enforcement questions: “I don’t know how an officer will be able to determine whether a person is driving while texting,” said McDaniel, who has resisted previous efforts to ban text messaging while driving.
In the House, all legislation was killed off in committee except for HB 484. It would fine tune the existing teen-texting law in Mississippi. Current law bars drivers with novice (learner’s) licenses from texting. The bill would outlaw texting & driving for those under the age of 18.
HB 484 cleared the House Judiciary Committee, which has been called a “graveyard” for distracted driving bills.
The safety group Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety lists Mississippi as one of the worst in the nation for vehicle laws.
- Read more about Mississippi distracted driving laws.