Texting and driving means trouble with the law in four new states.
Georgia, Michigan, Iowa and Wyoming all saw their legislature’s distracted driving plans become effective July 1.
Across the states, drivers fretted over what was allowed and what was not, and law officers raised the usual concerns about enforcement.
In Michigan, a spokesman for the police chiefs association wasn’t happy: “It’s going to be very difficult for us,” he said.
But in Iowa, a Sioux City officer said, “We’ve all seen people driving and texting — it’s pretty obvious what they’re doing.”
Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue also had his doubts about enforcing a ban on text messaging while behind the wheel. He signed the “Caleb Sorohan Act for Saving Lives by Preventing Texting While Driving” after raising the specter of a veto. (Sorohan was a teen killed in a texting-related crash.)
Safety advocates, lawmakers and students lobbied furiously in the final days of the legislative session for Perdue to sign the bill, which he did with no time to spare.
Texting and driving now merits a ticket in Georgia. Drivers under the age of 18 also are prohibited from using cell phones, regardless of whether a hands-free device is attached. Violations of the new distracted driving laws bring a $150 fine.
Join the debate over Georgia’s new texting and cell phone laws.
Michigan’s governor gladly signed that state’s new distracted driving laws. Gov. Jennifer Granholm even enacted the no-texting-while driving bills into law on a “No Phone Zone” special on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
In Michigan, text messaging has been outlawed for all drivers. Fines are $100 (first offense) and then $200.
Read more about Michigan’s distracted driving laws.
In Iowa, violators are off the hook for a year, during a legislature-mandated education period. After that, fines begin at $30 and go up to $1,000 for those causing a serious accident while texting.
Iowa banned text messaging for all drivers and prohibited teens with restricted licenses from using all handheld electronic devices while behind the wheel.
Enforcement for adults is “secondary,” meaning police need another reason to stop violators before writing the citation. Teen offenders (14-18) can be pulled over and cited for violations without other cause, however. Mandating secondary enforcement generally is seen as watering down distracted driving laws.
Read about Iowa’s distracted driving laws.
In Wyoming, an effort to water down the new text messaging law was defeated in the legislative process. So as of July 1, distracted drivers face primary enforcement with fines of $75.
Sen. Floyd Esquibel, D-Cheyenne, said that while his newly minted law banning text messaging does apply to all drivers, it is aimed at the generation hooked on texting. The new law is “primarily for an age group that is already at high risk simply because of age,” he said after the measure was approved.
Latest news on Wyoming’s ban on text messaging.