U.S. distracted driving fatalities slip 2.2%

The number of distracted driving deaths slipped in 2016, bucking the trend in a year that saw overall fatalities rise 5.6 percent, federal officials report. The overall number of deaths linked to distracted driving was 3,450, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That compares with 3,526 in 2015. The decrease was 2.2 percent for "distraction-affected crashes," the DOT said. Deaths related to other reckless behaviors -- including speeding, alcohol impairment and not wearing seat belts -- continued to increase, the DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said … [Read more...]

Oregon’s new distracted driving law in force

A comprehensive rewrite of Oregon's distracted driving law is now in effect. Targeting various ambiguities in the old law, the new rules focus on the holding of "mobile electronic devices" such as smartphones. "That's the key," says House Bill 2597 author Rep. Andy Olson. “The law doesn’t say you can't use (cell phones and smartphones), you just can’t have them in your hand." The plan also upgrades first-time infractions from Class C to Class B ($260 first offense). Two-time violators are looking at a $435 penalty. Third or subsequent convictions within a decade bring a minimum … [Read more...]

Maine governor axes handheld cell phone law

Gov. Paul LePage says Maine doesn't need more "social engineering" -- and has vetoed the Legislature's handheld cell phone ban. The Republican governor said legislators and police should instead focus on the state's existing laws regarding texting & driving and distracted driving. "We have a distracted driver law, we have a texting law -- if they're not working let's figure out why and make them work," LePage, left, said in announcing the veto on a morning talk-radio show. State Sen. Bill Diamond's LD 1089 still could have become law, but the House's vote of Aug. 2 did not reach the … [Read more...]

Rhode Island prohibits handheld cell phone use

Rhode Island is joining three of its New England neighbors by adopting a ban on handheld cell phone use. Gov. Gina Raimondo approved state Sen. Susan Sosnowski's distracted driving measure July 10 after it cleared the General Assembly at the end of June. Sosnowski, left, has been trying to get a handheld cell phone ban through the legislature for a decade. The cell phone law takes effect June 1, 2018. The law allows first-time violators a suspension of the $100 (maximum) fine if they show proof of acquiring a hands-free accessory. Serial offenses appear to draw only $100 … [Read more...]

Texas governor OKs ban but targets local laws

The push for a texting ban in Texas finally has ended -- but the debate over distracted driving regulation in the Lone Star State seems sure to continue. Gov. Greg Abbott, left, signed the texting ban into law June 6, after some last-minute fears that he might not. The governor said, however, that he would push for special-session legislation pre-empting stronger local laws, primarily those that restrict use of handheld cell phones. "We don't need a patchwork quilt of regulations that dictate driving practices in Texas," Abbott said. Almost all communities in Texas have some form of … [Read more...]