The year in distracted driving: 2013

The year 2013 saw plenty of action on the distracted driving front -- from the legislatures to the courts to the streets. The year started with a bang as the nation's No. 1 fighter of distracted driving stepped down. Here's a look back: LaHood says he's leaving (Jan. 29): U.S. Department of Transportation chief Ray LaHood confirms he's stepping down from his Cabinet-level post. The move, while expected, was widely seen as a blow to the fight against distracted driving at the national level. LaHood, left, detailed a string of DOT achievements during his tenure, beginning with the efforts to … [Read more...]

2014’s new distracted driving laws

New distracted driving laws greet the New Year in a handful of states, notably Illinois, Oregon, Vermont and California. In Illinois, holding a cell phone while driving becomes illegal Jan. 1. The state already prohibits text messaging while driving. Fines range from $75 (first offense) to $150. In Oregon, fines for texting and using handheld mobile phones while driving increase to as much as $500. Most violators will pay $250 plus fees for texting and cell phone convictions -- less than the new maximum. The old maximum fine, $250, will be doubled as of Jan. 1. In Vermont, penalties … [Read more...]

New Jersey’s new distracted driving bills

New Jersey's lawmakers created a series of distracted driving laws during the current legislative session, and they still haven't hit the brakes. A trio of distracted driving measures have been put before New Jersey's Assembly and Senate in the final weeks of the 2012-2013 session. The Assembly Transportation Committee on Nov. 25 approved a bill from John Wisniewski that would outlaw any activity "unrelated to the actual operation of a motor vehicle" that distracts the driver. Wisniewski's measure also would clarify that holding a mobile phone near one's ear is cause for police to write … [Read more...]

Alaska rewrites its texting law history

Alaska's old and "ambiguous" texting & driving law is dead and buried. A state appeals court ruled this week that the 2008 law intended to ban text messaging while driving was poorly worded and ambiguous "at best." It established "the crime of driving with a screen device operating." In 2012, legislators amended the Alaska distracted driving law to specify that a violation occurs when a driver is "reading or typing a text message." While the issue would seem to be moot in Alaska, the legal activity reflects continuing problems nationwide with the wording of the first wave of … [Read more...]

Calif. teen-texting loophole closed

California teens are breaking the law if they text message while driving. Period. Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation closing a loophole that allowed drivers under 18 to use voice-activated technology to text while driving. The novice drivers aren't allowed to use communications devices such as smartphones, whether hand-held or hands-free. (Adults are permitted to use hands-free devices.) But a 2012 revision to California's distracted driving laws permits use of hands-free technology for texting, and that change applied to all drivers. The 2012 change to the driving laws followed … [Read more...]