Update: The social media ban for all drivers was signed by the governor in late May and went into effect Aug. 1, 2013. Fines: $175 to $500. /update
The bill from state Sen. Dale Erdey cleared the Senate on May 21 with only one dissenting vote. It had previously been approved by Senate, which had to give final signoff to a House amendment.
Louisiana outlaws texting while driving, but lawmakers’ attempts to ban handheld cell phone use have found no success in the Legislature.
Curiously, the Erdey legislation (SB 147) doesn’t prohibit general surfing of the Web while driving, but focuses solely on social media such as Facebook and Twitter. It specifies use of a wireless communications device “to access, read or post to a social networking site.”
Erdey said his bill was inspired by law officer complaints that drivers could escape ticketing for texting if they were entering messages into social media services while driving.
“It is all about taking your eyes off the road,” says Erdey, a Republican from Livingston. He says social media use is more distracting than texting.
The measure would outlaw use of “any web-based service that allows individuals to construct a profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and communicate with other members of the site.”
Louisiana upgraded its existing text messaging ban to primary enforcement two years ago.
The fine for violating the social media provisions would be $175 for a first offense, the same as for texting. Repeat offenders face $500 fines.
The Erdey bill does not indicate how police are supposed to tell if a driver is using the Internet for news or information vs. using social media sites.