Louisiana: Cell phone laws, legislation

Last updated: April 6, 2014
Cell phone, texting news: Louisiana lawmakers have now rejected all distracted driving legislation concerning cell phones six years in a row. The latest casualty was a hands-free bill from Rep. Mike Huval that withered under heavy fire in the House Transportation Committee on March 24. Critics called it a “nanny state” bill.

louisiana state flagThe state did upgrade its existing text messaging ban to primary enforcement during 2011. This means police can stop and cite drivers for that violation alone. And in 2013, a law prohibiting the use of social networks while behind the wheel went into effect.

The House did in 2014 sign off on a 2014 resolution in support of April’s End Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Current prohibitions:

  • Text messaging banned for all drivers. Fines up to $175 (first offense) and then $500. Primary enforcement.
  • Use of social media prohibited for all drivers.
  • Drivers under 18 years old may not use wireless devices — including cell phones, text-messaging units and computers — while operating motor vehicles.
  • Drivers with learner’s and intermediate licenses prohibited from using cell phones unless a hands-free device is attached.

Distracted driving legislation (2014):
House Bill 370: Would prohibit use of cell phones and other wireless communications devices in school zones during posted hours. Does not apply to parked vehicles. Moving violation. Fine: Up to $175 then up to $500. Fine doubled if accident results. (Thompson)

HB 797: Would bar use of handheld wireless communications devices by drivers (class E license). Hands-free cell phone operation OK. Secondary enforcement. Rejected by the House Transportation Committee on March 24. (Huval)

House Resolution 19: Recognizes April as End Distracted Driving Awareness Month in. Approved March 12. To the Senate. (Leger)

Distracted driving notes (2014):
A House resolution honors the work of Joel Feldman, who spreads the word about the dangers of distracted driving after losing his daughter Casey in a 2009 wreck. The family’s End Distracted Driving Student Awareness Initiative is backed by the Louisiana Association for Justice, the resolution from state Rep. Walt Leger notes.

2013 distracted driving legislation:
Senate Bill 147: Would add “social networking” as prohibited activity under existing texting & driving ban. Specifies use of a wireless communications device “to access, read or post to a social networking site.” Approved unanimously by the Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works on April 10. Approved by the Senate in a 25-9 vote of April 17. Approved unanimously by the House Committee on Transportation on May 6. Approved by the full House in a unanimous 94-0 vote of May 16. Approved again by the Senate in a 34-1 vote of May 21. Signed by the governor May 30, as Act 62. Effective Aug. 1, 2013. (Erdey)

2013 distracted driving notes:
Designed to close what appears to be a loophole in the current texting & driving ban, a law prohibiting the use of social networks while behind the wheel went into effect Aug. 1, 2013.

State Sen. Dale Erdey says his 2013 bill was created in response to police complaints that drivers could escape ticketing if they were using Twitter, Facebook or similar social media services while driving. The measure includes a detailed description of behaviors involved in using social media.

“In social networking, they are actually taking more time away from driving as opposed to a quick text,” Erdey said. “It is all about taking your eyes off the road.”

The Senate signed off on the social media measure SB 147 on April 17 and the House followed suit May 16. The bill was returned to the Senate for final sign-off, which came May 21. Only one senator voted against the plan. The governor signed the bill May 30.

The sole Senate vote against the social media ban for drivers (SB 147) came from Baton Rouge Republican Dan Claitor. The Senate had to sign off on House changes to the bill allowing drivers to use two-way radios and ham radios. Fines will be the same as those for texting and driving.

2012 distracted driving notes:
Hanging up on cell phone bill: An official of the the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission helped sink Rep. Austin Badon’s cell phone legislation. Program coordinator Bobby Breland cited 120 studies that came to no consensus on whether cell phone use causes accidents. HB 695, approved by the House, failed in the Senate Transportation Committee on a 1-2 vote. The chairman did not vote and three committee members did not show up.

State Rep. Austin Badon and Rep. Regina Barrow teamed up on two pieces of legislation that would have banned handheld cell phone use. HB 787 called for secondary enforcement. HB 695 called for primary enforcement. Barrow and Badon were co-sponsors of each other’s legislation.

Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, knows a thing or two about the dangers of cell phone use by drivers. She and her children were rear-ended by a woman who admitted she was on the phone at the time and didn’t see the red light.

Badon’s House Bill 695, as filed, called for a complete ban on cell phone use by drivers. “That’s not really going to pass (as a total cell phone ban) and it’s going to have a difficult time,” he said. Badon, D-New Orleans, had planned the amend the measure to allow for hands-free, but HB 787 — a bill he co-sponsored — advanced instead.

Badon filed cell phone-related bills every year since 2009. They all sought primary enforcement.

Louisiana State Police Troop L reported four fatalities in a trio of crashes linked to driver distraction in a period of four days in January.

Cell phone use was linked to 2,226 crashes in Louisiana in 2011. Other electronic devices (such as GPS) contributed to another 562. Five of those crashes resulted in fatalities, state figures show.

2012 distracted driving legislation:
House Bill 695: Prohibits use of all wireless telecommunications devices while driving, including cell phones. Would repeal current laws related to minors and drivers with restricted licenses. Amended by sponsor to allow for hands-free operation. Primary enforcement. Would replace Louisiana’s existing distracted driving laws (above). Approved by the House Transportation Committee on April 24 and sent to the full House. Approved by the House in a 68-29 vote taken May 2 and transmitted to the Senate. Latest legislative action: Rejected by the Senate Transportation Committee on May 17. Apparently dead for the year. (Badon, Barrow)

HB 787: Would add cell phones to state’s ban on texting while driving. Seeks to prohibit use of wireless telecommunications devices unless hands-free. Texting (only) a moving violation. Would repeal current wireless device bans for restricted licenses holders and minor drivers. Secondary enforcement. Amended and advanced by the House Transportation Committee in a 9-7 vote taken April 16. (Barrow, Badon)

Note: HB 695 calls for primary enforcement while HB 787 proposes secondary enforcement.

2011 distracted driving notes:
Louisiana traffic accident figures for 2011 show that electronic distracted driving played a role in 2,788 crashes, five of which resulted in fatalities.

In 2011, the House shot down HB 338, which would have prohibited all drivers in Louisiana from using handheld cell phones while driving. It called for primary enforcement. The June 10, 2011, roll call vote was 55-33 against enactment of the plan from Rep. Charmaine Marchand Stiaes, D-New Orleans.

A similar measure, HB 337, was rejected by the House Transportation Committee on May 17, 2011. It called for secondary enforcement of its proposed ban on handheld cell phones.

The News-Star puzzled over the Legislature’s unwillingness to adopt a handheld cell phone law for drivers, noting on June 11 that the state “already has outlawed texting while driving, so lawmakers obviously recognize a danger exists with distracted drivers.” The Monroe newspaper’s editorial board went on to remind voters that lawmakers “cited their own (phoning and driving) practices as their excuse for defeating the legislation. One lawmaker even tried to exempt legislators from the proposed law.”

HB 387 seeks to allow the use of split-screen in-dash monitors, found in a few vehicles such as those in the Mercedes S-Class (SplitView). These dashboard screens allow front passengers to watch movies or television while the driver sees only navigational elements. The federal Department of Transportation has yet to take a stand on the new wave of vehicle entertainment systems such as those that access the Internet.

2011 distracted driving legislation (dead):
Louisiana House Bill 337: Requires drivers using cell phones or other electronic communications devices to employ a hands-free device and apply a “high degree of caution.” Secondary enforcement. Fines: $100 (first offense) then $150 (second)/$200/$250. Rejected by the House Transportation Committee in a 5-8 vote taken May 17. (Badon)

HB 338: Would prohibit operators of motor vehicles from using handheld wireless telecommunication devices such as cell phones. Includes PCs. Primary offense. Fine: $125 plus costs. Rejected by the House in a 55-33 vote taken June 10. Dead. (Stiaes)

HB 387: Would strike and replace state law against having a video screen in a vehicle unless it’s located behind the driver’s seat. Bill’s intent is to to authorize use of split-view screens in which passengers can view entertainment such as TV broadcasts, but the driver cannot. The new law would prohibit use of any TV/video screen that can be seen by driver while vehicle is in motion. Installers not allowed to install entertainment screens that are visible to driver. (Burrell)

2010 legislation:
Louisiana Senate Bill 9: Upgrades the existing law prohibiting text messaging to primary enforcement status, meaning law officers can stop and cite violators solely for that offense. Also applies to ban on use of wireless telecommunications devices by youngest drivers. Fines would remain at $175 (first offense) and then up to $500. Insurance company notification of offenses. (Louisiana Act 203)

SB 9 was advanced to the full Senate by the transportation committee on April 15 and approved by the Senate on April 21 in a 22-9 vote. Approved by the House (with minor changes) in a 69-22 vote on June 2. Back to the Senate for final sign-off, which came June 7 in a 32-0 vote. Latest action: Signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal on June 17; goes into effect Sunday, Aug. 15. (Gautreaux)

House Bill 863: Prohibits texting and handheld cell phone use for all drivers. Does not include hands-free operation of mobile phones and use of two-way radios. Primary offense. Fine of $125 plus court costs. Originally a separate distracted driving law for commercial vehicle operators, but amended to include all drivers with sponsors’ backing. Approved by the House Transportation Committee on April 27 (a 12-2 vote) and sent to the full House. Failed to advance in the House after two votes. Dead as of May 17. (Stiaes, Leger)

HB 1235: Would outlaw use of handheld cell phones and other electronic communications devices for all drivers. Primary enforcement. Fines $100 (first offense)/$150/$200/$250. Approved by the House Transportation Committee on April 27 (a 12-2 vote) and sent to the full House. (Badon)

HB 134: Would establish that in liability cases, drivers using handheld electronic devices would be assumed to be at fault for any accident — “prima facie.” No activity in committee. (Abramson)

2010 legislation notes:
HB 863 started life as a ban on handheld cell phone use by commercial truck drivers, but it was amended in committee to apply to all drivers. State Rep. Jack Montoucet, D-Crowley, wrote the amendment: “It is getting worse and worse day by day,” he said of drivers using cell phones.

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission reports that cell phone-related fatalities were up to 16 in 2009, and probably underreported. In 2005, the number was six. The Commission later reported that 52 traffic fatalities were blamed on cell phone use between 2005 and 2009.

A 2009 attitudinal survey of Louisiana drivers conducted for the commission and the Department of Transportation found 81.9 percent of respondents considered it dangerous to use a cell phone while driving.

The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is testing technology that reroutes incoming phone calls and text messages when a handheld device is in a vehicle in motion. The pilot program is using DOT vehicles.

SB 9 sponsor Sen. Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City, said he proposed the stiffening of texting fines after following a driver he assumed to be drunk. The driver was texting, he told a transportation committee hearing on April 9.

2009 legislation:
Louisiana House Bill 146: Seeks to ban use of cell phones while driving on Louisiana’s roads unless a hands-free device is employed. Also would prohibit text messaging and emailing via various devices. The handheld cell phone ban was approved by the House Transportation Committee on May 18, 2009, and sent to the House floor for a full debate. It was approved by the House on May 27, but with an amendment that watered down the plan by making violations a secondary offense. Sent to the Senate where the handheld cell phone legislationwas “voluntarily deferred” by the frustrated sponsor, Rep. Austin Badon of New Orleans. Badon missed a key hearing, saying he was delayed in traffic, but it appears the bill was doomed anyway.

Legislation notes:
Rep. Austin Badon fought a House amendment to his HB 146 that reduced violations to a secondary offense, meaning police would need another reason for pulling over drivers. “We don’t need to water this down,” Badon told fellow representatives. The amendment was approved on a 56-40 vote and HB 146 then passed on a 57-41.

Badon missed the June 9 committee hearing on his HB 146 because he was stuck in traffic, reports said. The representative said it didn’t matter — he withdrew the handheld cell phone legislation from consideration after a hostile reception the week before in the Senate Transportation committee.

Badon tried again with HB 146 after his previous hands-free bill was approved in the House but died in the full Senate. Badon’s 2009 cell phone legislation calls for fines of $100 for a first-time violation, $150 for a second, $200 for a third and $250 for all others. Enforcement would have begin Jan. 1, 2010. He plans to renew the fight in 2010.

Badon makes an interesting point about the advantages of keeping cell phones out of drivers’ hands: “The sight of someone holding a phone while driving erratically also can anger other drivers, creating even more danger in traffic.”

The 2009 legislative session in Louisiana began April 27 and ended June 25, later than in most states.

The texting prohibition and the cell phone restrictions on young drivers took effect Aug. 15, 2008. The sponsor was Sen. Julie Quinn, R-Metairie.

The state Highway Safety Commission reports that cell phones were a factor in 2,187 accidents during 2008, including 10 fatalities.

HB 402, passed by the House and Senate in May 2008, prohibits school bus drivers from using cell phones. The law was inspired by a citizen complaint about a chatty driver

“We want our school bus drivers, who have precious commodities, our children, to focus on driving,” said Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston.

California state Sen. Joe Simitian, who wrote the famous California hands-free laws, said he consulted with a legislator in Louisiana about similar bills.

Comments

  1. Every day on my drive from Algiers to Metairie, I see people talking on hand-held cell phones. They are easy to spot. They are the ones who go 50 mph in the fast lane, change lanes without signals or weave in and out of their lane. Many things can distract drivers, but hand-held cell phone use is at the top of the list. I’d love to see this bill passed AND enforced!

  2. Kelly D says:

    If you are gonna ban that then what about these Other distracting things. They too could be banned from while driving.

    • Your kids screaming or fighting from theBack seat & you being referee
    • Eating lunch
    • Applying make up
    • Digging in your purse for something
    • Reaching in back seat for lost item, work
    Files/ folders
    • Not wearing sunglasses on a really sunny
    Day

    All of these things distract you while driving. It’s not the phone, it’s the idiot using it.

    An idiot is an idiot regardless of what they are doing in a car.

  3. Buster Stewart says:

    Yes using a hand held phone should be aginst the law.

  4. William Leger says:

    I appluade the legislation to ban texting while driving. I, myself cannot text and drive so i believe that no one should be texting and driving. If caught i think the fines should be extensive and espically when an accident is involved.

  5. Jody Jagneaux says:

    Do away with the helmet law , Red Light Cameras and seat belt laws It’s Communism !

  6. Need to put a ban on people putting on make-up behind the wheel. Their the ones that distracts the most and all over the frkn road.

  7. I totally agree that using cell phones (hand held and hands free) should be banned…especially texting. If you’re on the phone you are NOT paying attention to the road. But, who is going to enforce these laws? Oh, yeah, the cops that are on the phone are going to enforce it, right?

  8. The only thing that is stupid about this law is that “law enforement is exempt in emergency situations” That is B.S. This law should apply to everyone or no one.

  9. I agree that texting while behind the wheel needs to be prohibited, along with hand held cell phone calls. Hands free use should not be outlawed. Some of us can actually carry on a conversation while driving and obeying the traffic laws. Of course, there are those drivers out there that can’t carry on a conversation with the person sitting next to them while they are driving. But since you can’t make being an idiot against the law, then you should make it illegal for everybody? How about a basic IQ test with your drivers license. I’m sure that would take care of the majority of the problem.

  10. Jay Herrod says:

    I am currently living in Colorado Springs but getting ready to return to Louisiana. Can or cannot a person talk on their cell phone while driving? That is not clear to me. I can understand not allowing texting while driving. I do not talk on my cell phone when in traffic, just too dangerous.

  11. Hari Seldon says:

    Feedback for Jay – Currently in Louisiana, it is illegal for under 18 to drive while talking on a cell phone. Unfortunately it is still ok for 18 and over to talk on cell phone while driving. Maybe, just maybe, in the 2011 Louisiana legislative session, cell phone use while driving for anyone will be prohibited. But for now, unless you are under 18, you can talk on a cell phone in La while driving and not get a ticket.

  12. brian desselle says:

    I agree 100% on the whole thing. now the ? that will be unfair is cops, firefighters ambulance, taxi’s they have to kill time while they r working. I choose the blue tooth. not all law enforcements r doing police calls while driving

  13. Glenn McGovern says:

    It does not matter if the cell is used with a speaker or hands held as that causes a disruption in cognitive brain function–it is still unsafe and causes accident. NHTSA has done tests and reported in 2009 any cell use whether hand held or not is unsafe.

    There were over 448,000 accidents in the USA in 2009 due to distracted drivers. Truckers are banned from having them in the cabin due to the risks. This legislation will not do any good until all cell phone use is banned while driving.

  14. Al Cinamon says:

    Hari, can you figure out why it’s illegal for the “under 18″ crowd to talk on a cell phone? It’s because that group doesn’t vote. You see, politicians are more fearful of retaliation at the polls than they are of traffic crashes. So, let the carnage continue. They will not pass laws that make you unhappy.

  15. Warren Hensgens says:

    In 1979, there were 0 cell phones , in 2010 in La. there are 3 mill cell phones in use! The accident rate and death rate went DOWN! The accidents should be up by 3 mill

  16. Al Cinamon says:

    Well, Warren, I guess that bit of information justifies distracted driving and should give comfort to the families of the victims. In your mind, it’s just a matter of statistics….so let the carnage continue.

  17. Rebecca Pilcher says:

    Where is “COMMON SENSE” these day?? Texting while driving … Whoever thinks that should be allowed is lacking in the mentality dept. Hello?? Get real!!

  18. Al Cinamon says:

    Rebecca, I’m sorry to have to inform you but drivers have no common sense. That’s why we need speed bumps, red light cameras, school crossing guards, gates at railroad crossings … shall I go on? It’s sad but true and Warren is certainly more proof of that. Just do the best you can and watch out for the other guy!

  19. Just because some people are unable to drive properly because they are distracted doesnt mean that all of us should pay the penalty. If they are too stupid and incapable a driver to know when something is distracting them then they need to have their license revoked. There will always be distractions. Heck I guess if we are going to blame distractions we can sue the advertising companies for putting up signs that we want to look at. Or say people cant dress attractively because I know a lot of people that do a double take to watch someone they find attractive. … Do not baby these (bad drivers). They are going to live or they are going to die. Do not oppress the rest of us because of them.

  20. Al Cinamon says:

    Perhaps the biggest myth going is to believe that some can multi-task and others can’t. Let me tell you something. Every driver who ever crashed thought they could “handle” their irresponsible behavior. They all think they’re that good. It’s the “other” guy who is not as good as me.

    Not long ago we had an SUV fly off the highway here in New York. (Maybe you heard about it). She was doing 20 mph over the speed limit and you can bet she felt she was in control. Then moments later 7 people were dead because she thought , like you, that others can’t handle it but she could.

    So you can delude yourself all you want. And if you kill yourself in the process, I have no problem with that. I don’t mind when people commit suicide. What bothers me is when they commit murder and kill innocent victims just because they have inflated egos and think, like you, that they have some greater skill. I truly hope you don’t have to learn the hard way and I sincerely hope that no one else has to pay the price for your education.

  21. Red light says:

    Al cin. Are you serious right now? Just slap yourself in the face. Ok so what your saying is everyone has the same when it comes to basic brain functions. Can you write, listen, breath and chew at the same time? I know people that can and can not. Just because your peanut size brain can’t do what’s ” natural” these days I’m sorry I truely am but people evoulve and times change buddy. And not to sound cold and hateful but Im a firm believer that when the good lord is ready he will take you. Im not saying everyone should text and drive just like if you can chew gum and walk at the same time, if you cant then dont but you old people need to get with program and stop being scared of every little thing.

  22. Al Cinamon says:

    Copy and paste: this old man rests his case.

  23. Al is right on target with his information about distracted driving. It is not just about cell phone use, its about anything in your vehicle while it is in motion. All distractions need to be removed from inside the vehicle when it is in motion. When ANYTHING distracts you it takes away the visual, you cant/dont watch where you are going. It takes away the mental because you aren’t 100% involved in the driving task, and it takes away the physical, your hands, eyes, mind are involved in the distraction. You arent just a menace to yourself, but to everyone on the roadway as well. On the Road, off the phone!

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