Mississippi: Cell phone laws, legislation

Last updated: April 3, 2014
Cell phone/texting news: Mississippi appeared set for a texting & driving ban in 2014, but last-minute politics killed the plan. The governor had said he “look(ed) forward to reviewing and signing this law in hopes of protecting lives.”

mississippi state flagState Rep. Bill Denny made a successful motion to reconsider the legislation that was produced by a conference committee and approved by both houses — and the legislation was then tabled for the session. Denny said he hadn’t realized the bill applied to all drivers since it originally only affected teens.

Almost a dozen distracted driving bills were before the Mississippi Legislature, all seeking to ban text messaging while driving. Most would have prohibited texting by all drivers; a few sought to prohibit the activity by any driver under age 18.

Mississippi remains one of few states without a ban on text messaging for all drivers. The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety group listed the state as one of the worst in the nation for vehicle laws.

Current prohibitions:

  • Text messaging prohibited for drivers with an intermediate license, a temporary learning permit or a temporary driving permit. Fines up to $500; if accident results, $1,000.
  • Bus drivers barred from using a wireless communications device if a minor is on board.

Distracted driving notes (2014):
The Mississippi House and Senate both approved legislation making text messaging & driving illegal in Mississippi. A conference committee stepped in to resolve the houses’ differences over fines. The House and Senate both signed off on the plan April 1. The texting ban would have taken effect July 1, 2014, but it died after a reconsideration maneuver.

Under the compromise, the fine for texting & driving in Mississippi would have been $25. Beginning July 1, 2015, the fine would have been $100. “It’s not the best bill, but it’s a start,” said state Rep. Willie Bailey, who wrangled the texting bill in the House.

“Public pressure” is building on the Legislature, said state Sen. Billy Hudson, sponsor of numerous texting & handheld cell phone measures.

State Sen. Billy Hudson was back in 2014 with Senate Bill 2613, but this time around the primary sponsor of the texting plan was Sen. Sally Doty. Hudson, who filed unsuccessful distracted driving measures for the past five sessions, says he was hoping the text legislation would have better luck with a different sponsor.

Of his plan to outlaw texting by drivers under age 18, state Rep. Gary Chism says: “That may not be as far as a lot of people would like to see us go, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.” The bill was amended to cover all drivers and approved by both houses of the Legislature.

Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, had the main distracted driving bill in the Senate. She told Hands Free Info, “I believe that having several Senators with different interests and constituencies may prove to be effective this year.” Her bill didn’t make it out of committee in the Senate. As for prospects for a texting bill in the House, she said: “I have not talked to the chair of House Judiciary yet and while I am hopeful, I know this will be a difficult issue in the House.”

Critics call the House Judiciary Committee (A&B) a “graveyard” for distracted driving bills.

A survey taken for Allstate Insurance found that 93 percent of Mississippi drivers backed a ban on text messaging while behind the wheel. 43 percent said texting was the biggest safety threat on roads and highways in the state.

Distracted driving legislation (2014):
House Bill 484: Would outlaw texting by all drivers (original plan drivers under the age of 18). Approved by the Transportation Committee on Feb. 3. Approved by the full House in a 99-15 vote of Feb. 13. Rewritten in Senate committee to classify texting as careless driving with fine up to $50, and approved by full Senate in a 49-3 vote of March 5. Back to the House. Conference committee amendment to $100 fine after July 1, 2015. One-year $25 fine begins July 1, 2014. Approved by House and Senate on April 1. (Chism)

Senate Bill 2434: Would bar all drivers from texting. Civil penalty. Fine: $100. (Original bill classified texting while driving and social media use as careless driving. Fines: $5 to $50.) Amended and approved by the Highways and Transportation Committee on Feb. 4. Approved by the full Senate on Feb. 5. Amended and approved by the House in a 91-27 vote Feb. 27 ($25 fine first year). Back to the Senate. Died In Conference — see HB 484. (Tollison)

SB 2004: Seeks to prohibit texting while driving. Fines: Up to $500 (first offense); $1,000 if an accident results. Died in committee. (Butler)

SB 2433: Would ban texting while operating a motor vehicle. Fines: Up to $500 (first offense); $1,000 if an accident results. Died in committee. (Collins)

SB 2516: Would bar drivers under age 18 from texting. Fines: Up to $500 (first offense); $1,000 if an accident results. Died in committee. (Carmichael)

SB 2613: Would prohibit texting while driving. Would ban use of video monitor (TV, computer screen) in view if it is in view of driver. Would outlaw any use of social media sites by drivers. Programming of GPS units prohibited, but not regular use. Fines: Up to $500 (first offense); $1,000 if an accident results. Specifies primary enforcement and entry of offense on driver’s record. Died in committee Feb. 4. (Doty, Hudson)

House Bill 364: Would ban texting while driving in Mississippi. Applies to all drivers. Fines: Up to $500 (first offense); $1,000 if a crash results. Died in committee. (Clarke)

HB 597: Seeks to outlaw texting by using handheld wireless devices. Applies to all drivers. Fine: $75; if accident results, $500. Died in committee. (Hood, by request)

HB 997: Would prohibit texting & driving. Fine $50, but contingent on a conviction for another offense at same time. Secondary enforcement. Died in committee. (Bain)

HB 998: Seeks to bar drivers from texting. Fine $25. Died in committee. (Calhoun)

HB 1175: Seeks to ban texting while driving. Fines: Up to $500 (first offense); $1,000 if a crash results. Died in committee. (Evans)

HB 1343: Would ban text messaging and accessing Internet while driving. Fine: $100. If crash results, $500 fine. Specifies license suspensions for drivers under age 18: 30 days (first offense), 60 days (subsequent). No fine first six months unless convicted of another offense at same time. No entry on driver’s record for first six months. Died in committee. (Banks)

2013 distracted driving notes:
The Legislature ignored or rejected all distracted driving measures filed for the 2013 session. At least 18 proposals were left for dead in committee. All 18 bills sought to restrict texting while driving, and a few others included prohibitions on use of handheld cell phones.

2013 distracted driving legislation (dead):
Senate Bill 2155: Would prohibit text messaging by all drivers in Mississippi. Fines: $500 or $1,000 if a wreck results. Moving violation. (Hudson)

SB 2157: Would outlaw texting while driving. Fines: $500 or $1,000 if a crash results. (Butler)

SB 2160: Would bar texting while driving. Requires police reporting of distracted driving role in crashes. Fines: $500 or $1,000 if a wreck results.

SB 2217: Creates “rebuttable” presumption of careless driving if driver is texting. Fines for careless driving: $5 to $50. (Tollison)

SB 2488: Would prohibit text messaging and handheld cell phone use by all drivers in Mississippi. Would bar all drivers under age 18 from using cell phones. Requires police reporting of distracted driving role in crashes. Fines: $500 or $1,000 if a wreck results. Moving violation. (Hudson)

SB 2498: Would outlaw texting by drivers under age 18. Fines: Up to $500 or $1,000 if crash results. Requires police report of texting. (Carmichael)

House Bill 230: Would prohibit text messaging for all drivers. Fine $25. (Calhoun)

HB 272: Would prohibit text messaging for all drivers. Fine of $50 only applies if driver committed another infraction while texting. (Bain)

HB 707: Would bar all drivers from texting. Fines: $100 then $150. Up to $1,000 if crash results. Requires police report of texting. (Mayo)

HB 708: Seeks to prohibit texting while using handheld cell phone while operating vehicle. Fines: Up to $500 or $1,000 if crash results. Requires police report of texting. (Johnson)

HB 768: Would outlaw texting by drivers under age 18. Fines: Up to $500 or $1,000 if crash results. Requires police report of texting. (Chism)

HB 1075: Seeks to prohibit texting by all drivers. Fines: Up to $500 or $1,000 if crash results. Requires police to report texting. (Bennett)

HB 1278: Creates “rebuttable” presumption of careless driving if driver is texting. Fines for careless driving: $5 to $50. (White)

HB 1434: Would outlaw texting by all drivers. Fines: Up to $500 or $1,000 if crash results. Requires police to report texting. (Clarke)

HB 1435: Would outlaw handheld cell phone use by all drivers. Fines: Up to $150 (first offense) then $300 (second) then $500 (third and subsquent) with possibility of six months in jail and community service. (Clarke)

HB 1465: Would prohibit use of handheld cell phones by drivers. Fines: $100; $500 if crash results. Graduated application of primary enforcement and entry of violation on driver’s record. Provides for license suspension of teen violators. (Banks)

HB 1490: Would outlaw texting & driving. Fines: Up to $500 or $1,000 if crash results. Requires police to report texting. (Broomfield)

HB 1576: See HB 1465, above. (Banks)

2012 distracted driving legislation (dead):
SB 2121: Would ban texting while driving and use of handheld cell phones for all drivers. Drivers under the age of 18 would be prohibited from using cell phones of any kind. Fines up to $500; if accident results, $1,000. (Hudson)

SB 2122: Would outlaw text messaging while driving in Mississippi. Fines up to $500; if accident results, $1,000. (Butler)

SB 2240: Would outlaw text messaging. Appears identical to SB 2122. (Collins)

Distracted driving notes (2012):
Sen. Billy Hudson, R-Purvis, says of his state’s reluctance to adopt distracted driving safeguards for all drivers: “We’re usually last, and it looks like we’re going to be last again. … So, many other states have taken the lead.”

In 2011, the full Senate approved a plan to prohibit text messaging by all drivers in Mississippi, but the House didn’t agree.

Sen. Nancy Collins, R-Tupelo, said she filed the texting & driving measure SB 2240 after being lobbied by a high school student.

The Mississippi Department of Public Safety says it has no record of a cell phone-related crash.

2011 distracted driving law:
SB 2472: “Nathan’s Law,” part of a broader bill that seeks to improve school bus safety. Would prohibit the use of handheld electronic devices while driving on school property when school is in session. Directs schools to post signs warning of ban. Passenger bus drivers would be barred from using a wireless communications device if a minor is on board. Fines: Up to $500 or $1,000 if an accident results. (See HB 551, below.) Approved by the Senate in a unanimous vote taken Jan. 14. Approved by the House on March 1. Sent to conference committee, which removed the Senate’s provision that drivers not use cell phones in school zones. The House and Senate gave final approval on March 28. Latest action: Signed by the governor on April 4. (McDaniel)

View 2011’s inactive (dead) legislation.

2011 distracted driving notes:
Only two lawmakers voted against the anti-texting plan SB 2793: Sens. Merle Flowers, R-Southaven, and Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville. The measure was approved by the full Senate and transmitted to the House. “This bill is not a cell phone bill, but I feel like we must start somewhere,” said Sen. Billy Hudson, R-Hattiesburg, who saw his SB 2114 defeated in committee. The bill died in the House, anyway.

The school bus safety bill dubbed “Nathan’s Law” was signed into law by the governor. One of its provisions bans school bus drivers from using handheld communications devices while transporting a minor. The Senate’s approved SB 2472 prohibited the use of cell phones while driving through school zones, but that was contested by the House, as in 2010. The final version out of a conference committee removed the school zone element.

The name “Nathan’s Law” could lead to confusion in 2011. Nathan was a 5-year-old killed by a driver who failed to stop for a school bus. The family-backed legislation, SB 2472, restricts use of wireless communications devices on school property and by bus drivers. Rep. Ed Blackmon, D-Canton, has filed HB 551, which uses Nathan’s name but seeks only to regulate wireless communications device by bus drivers. Both bills address broader issues concerning school safety.

SB 2472 sponsor Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, calls Blackmon’s legislation “a so-called and unexpected version of Nathan’s Law” that weakens existing safety laws. The two bills essentially renew the Senate and House dispute of last year, which centered on the handheld device provisions. Read more about the Nathan’s Law controversy. (See 2010’s SB 2505, below.)

Mississippi leads the nation in number of teenage driving fatalities, one study shows.

2011 legislation (dead):


Senate Bill 2793: Would outlaw text messaging by all drivers in Mississippi. Fines: up to $500 and $1,000 if an accident results. Latest action: Approved by the full Senate in a near-unanimous vote on Feb. 3 and sent to the House. Died in committee in the House on March 8. (Butler)

House Bill 551: Passenger bus drivers would be barred from using a wireless communications device if a minor is on board. Fines: Up to $500 or up to $1,000 if an accident results. Part of a broader bill addressing school bus safety. Also billed by sponsor as “Nathan’s Law.” Latest action: Approved by the House in a unanimous vote on Jan. 12. Assigned to Senate Judiciary panel, where the bill died on March 1. (Blackmon)

House Bill 52: Would outlaw text messaging and use of Internet while driving. Fines: Up to $100, $500 if accident occurs. Died in committee Feb. 1. (Broomfield)

HB 125: Would ban use of handheld cell phones while driving. Hands-free OK. Died in committee Feb. 1. (Mayo)

HB 324: An act that would restrict “regulation of inattentive driving and cellular phone usage” to the state. All existing local distracted driving laws would be nullified. The state apparently would have the option of approving local laws. Died in committee Feb. 1. (Denny)

HB 684: Would make use of handheld cell phones illegal while driving. Hands-free devices OK. Fine of $150 for first offense then $300 (if within three years of first offense), then $500 and possibility of jail time and community service. Latest action: Died in committee Feb. 1. (Clarke)

HB 685: Seeks to prohibit drivers from text messaging and otherwise using the Internet. Fines: Up to $500, $1,000 if an accident results. Died in committee Feb. 1. (Clarke)

HB 840: Would have applied text messaging ban to all drivers. Fine: $25. Died in committee Feb. 1.

HB 1191: Would have upped reckless driving penalties if a wireless communications device was the cause. Fines: $100/$750/$1,500 plus possibility of jail time on third and subsequent offenses. Died in committee Feb. 1. (McGee)

HB 1213: Sought to outlaw drivers’ use of cell phones unless a hands-free attachment were employed. FInes: $150 (first) then $300 and $500. Possibility of jail time and community service on third and subsequent offenses. Died in committee Feb. 1. (Espy)

HB 1226: Would have prohibited text messaging and related Internet activity by drivers. Unusual provision would have made enforcement secondary for first year and a half and then primary. Fines $100 or $500 if accident results. Died in committee Feb. 1. (Banks)

HB 1228: Would have outlawed use of handheld cell phones by drivers. Enforcement secondary for first year and a half and then primary. Fines $100 or $500 if accident results. Died in committee Feb. 1. (Banks)

HB 1229: Would have outlawed cell phoning and text messaging unless operation is hands-free. Enforcement secondary for 18 months and then primary. Fines $100 or $500 if accident results. Died in committee Feb. 1. (Banks)

HB 1316: Would have prohibited text messaging while driving. Fines $100 or $500 if accident results. Died in committee Feb. 1. (Evans)

SB 2033: Would bar drivers from text messaging on Mississippi roads and highways. Teen drivers under the age of 18 would be prohibited from using cell phones. Fines: Up to $500, $1,000 if an accident results. Died in committee Feb. 1. (Tollison)

SB 2114: Seeks to ban drivers’ use of handheld cell phones and texting. Hands-free cell phones OK. Teen drivers under the age of 18 would be barred from using all cell phones. Fines: Up to $100, $500 if accident occurs. Died in committee Feb. 1. (Hudson)

SB 2165: Would have banned text messaging by all motorists (see SB 2793, above). Fines: $500 or $1,000 if an accident results. Died in committee Feb. 1. (Butler)

SB 2648: Sought to ban text messaging by all drivers. Fines: $500 or $1,000 if an accident results. Died in committee Feb. 1. (Gollott)

2010 distracted driving notes:
State Sen. Kelvin Butler said that when the Legislature returns in January 2011, he’ll again propose a bill seeking to outlaw text messaging while driving in Mississippi. He was the driving force behind the state’s current law against texting while driving with a restricted license (below).

Butler, D-Magnolia, says he’s “currently soliciting the support of my Senate and House colleagues so we can unanimously adopt this (new text messaging) law.” The state senator said the plan will “give law enforcement the legal tools needed to ticket violators.” He’s also seeking input from the telecommunications industry.

Senate Judiciary Committee chief Gray Tollison, D-Oxford, supports a ban on all text messaging while driving. The Department of Public Safety will ask for broader restrictions as well.

A few legislators have expressed concerns about giving police new reasons to pull over motorists, given Mississippi’s past problems with racial profiling. SImilar fears have been voiced occasionally in other states.

Nathan’s Law was introduced by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville. After the House rejected his distracted-driving provisions on March 2, McDaniel held a news conference with supporters urging the bans be reinstated. Many of the supporters were wearing T-shirts of Nathan Key, the boy named in the bill who was killed while leaving a school bus. House committee chairman Ed Blackmon, D-Canton, said it would be too difficult for cell-phoning drivers to know that they were in a school zone. The bill died March 27.

Nathan’s Law stalemate: “There is absolutely no way we will agree with this watered down version,” Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Ellisville, said March 24 as hopes for a compromise bill faded. He said Blackmon’s version in the House is “weaker than our current law” and seeks to remove jail terms from its penalties.

2010 session legislation (all dead):
Senate Bill 2505: “Nathan’s Law” seeks to increase school bus safety. As approved by the Senate, included a ban on handheld cell phone use by those driving through in a school crossing zone as well as a ban on school bus drivers’ use of wireless communications devices. These two distracted-driving elements were removed in the House Judiciary A Committee before the bill’s approval by the full House on March 2. A compromise committee began work on the bill March 18, with senators arguing for the hands-free cell phone element. Died in conference March 27. (McDaniel)

SB 2595: Would outlaw text messaging for all drivers using Mississippi roads and highways. Drivers under the age of 18 would be banned from any cell phone use. Fines up to $500; up to $1,000 if accident results. Approved by Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 2 and then by the full Senate on Feb. 12. Sent to the House Transportation Committee. “Died in committee.” (Tollison)

House Bill 973: Would ban text messaging while operating a vehicle. Drivers must use hands-free devices in order to use a cell phone. Fines up to $100/$500 if an accident results. Approved by the House Transportation Committee on Feb. 2, 2010. Died in committee Feb. 11. (Broomfield)

SB 2107: Would prohibit text messaging and use of handheld cell phones while driving on state roads and highways. Drivers under the age of 18 would be prohibited from all cell phone use, regardless of whether a hands-free accessory was employed. Fines up to $500 or $1,000 if an accident results from the violation. Also requires law officers to note cell phone use or texting while writing accident reports. Died in committee Feb. 2. (Hudson)

SB 2114: Same as SB 2107 (above). Dead as of Feb. 2. (Yancey)

SB 3051: Would have prohibited text messaging by all drivers. Handheld cell phone use by drivers over 18. All cell phone use by drivers under 18. Fines from $100 to $500, $1,000 if accident results. Dead as of Feb. 2. (Gollott)

2009 session legislation:
SB 2280 (signed into law): Will prohibit text messaging for drivers with learner’s permits or intermediate licenses. OK’d by House and Senate and signed by the governor on April 6. (Texting provisions are in an amendment.)

Violators of the text messaging law for inexperienced drivers will be fined up to $500 for each infraction and up to $1,000 if an accident occurs in connection with the texting.

Gov. Haley Barbour on why he signed the teen text messaging legislation: “Having an inexperienced driver take his or her attention from the road to send a text message is just an accident waiting to happen. Frankly, no one, regardless of their age or experience, should be texting and driving.”

Mississippi rates worst in the percentage of teenage driving fatalities, with a rate of 35 deaths per 100,000 population over the past decade, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports.

SB 2280 almost died in the Senate, losing by one vote on March 24, but it then was reconsidered and approved the next day.

SB 2332: Would have prohibited text messaging and use of handheld cell phones while driving. (Also SB 2060.) Died in committee Feb. 3, 2009.

SB 3020: Would have banned text messaging while driving. Died in committee Feb. 3, 2009.

HB 672: Would have prohibited text messaging and use of handheld cell phones while driving. Died in committee Feb. 3, 2009.

SB 2097: Would have outlawed use of wireless communications devices by drivers with provisional licenses as well as motorcyclists under the age of 19. Died in committee Feb. 3, 2009.

Cell phone legislation notes (2009 and before):
The Senate’s proposed ban on texting by young drivers survived a House vote seeking to remove it from SB 2280 on March 10, 2009. The text messaging bill survived another close Senate vote later in the month, but was approved. Sen. Kelvin Butler, D-Magnolia, is the sponsor of SB 2280.

Violators of the texting ban proposed by SB 2280 could be fined up to $500 for each infraction and up to $1,000 if the young driver is involved in an accident while texting.

Senate backers of the teen-texting bill said there was not enough support for a full ban on text messaging by all drivers, but one is possible next year.

State Senate Pro Tempore Billy Hewes, R-Gulfport, stumped for the text messaging amendment to SB 2280: “This legislation is a good first step. It is our role as leaders to step in where there is an absence of policy. … Texting while driving is just too dangerous for anyone at any age.” The state Department of Public Safety backs the texting-while-driving bill, as does the cell phone carrier Cellular South.

SB 2105, which died in committee in 2008, would have prohibited use of wireless devices by drivers with temporary permits or intermediate licenses. And banned use of wireless devices by motorcycle operators under the age of 18.

A bill to prohibit use of cell phones by drivers with a learner permit or intermediate license died in committee in 2007 (HB 217)

Comments

  1. Driving Permit says:

    I appreceating with this article. Government take a good step against using mobiles while driving. I know the text messages sending by the drivers while driving is illegal. If any one found use mobile phones while driving then could be fine him. This is cause of accidents and sometimes may be cause of death. So mobile phones are totally banned while driving. Cancel the driving licence or driving permit if any person found use mobile phones while driving.

  2. The comment above makes no sense.

    Apparently this person cannot read.

    There are no cell phone bans, nor texting bans (unless you are an inexperienced driver, see above…).

    And stupid people are the cause of accidents, not just cell phones. If someone is unaware of the road they cause a problem. This isn’t just caused by cell phones, but also by conversations in the car, loud music, changing the radio, kids laughing and screaming, etc.

  3. marcus thurston says:

    I have no problem with banning the use of cell phones on drivers under the age of 18.if you have an accident and someone is injured or dies they can trac your phone and see if you were using it at time of accident.but people need to take responsibility and pay attention .if you start swerving and stuff pull over

  4. This is sad and it is peoples way of blaming anyone but themselves, what was the number one cause of accidents ten years ago when people weren’t text messaging?? It’s always something… Isn’t it. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be banned and i’m definitely not saying it’s safe but dang we need to hold each other accountable… if you aren’t paying attention you aren’t paying attention. And of all people the young ones aren’t the ones I’m worried about most of them can text without looking at their phones. It’s the 30 and 40 year olds who have to look down to text.

  5. POLOW DUDE says:

    no text while driving it’s the law

    i would love for this no-texting song to get out there

  6. I think the use of cell phones for anything while driving unless being used with a hands free device should be prohibited by law.

  7. MS is Last again says:

    it’s getting embarrasing to live in Mississippi. Been here all my life and you know were alwasy last on the “worse” list. Once again something that should be a no brainer (a distracted driving law) doesn’t pass. What should we wait for more teens to die before passing?

  8. How many people are going to have to die in order to get this passed.Texting while driving with a 6000 pound car or whatever is the stupid thing to do.Endangering the life of everyone around you.Its a selfess act.But thats the world in which we live. HEY MISSISSIPPI LAW LETS GET THIS PASSED AND SAVE LIVES. BONUS PLUS THE REVENUE GENERATED BETTER THAT A CASINO.

  9. I want to get a List of all that voted against this law. How big a moron do you have to be to not know how dangerous texting and driving is. I’ve live in Mississippi all my life and I’m about to give up on this State. We are behind on most things good and ahead on most things bad.

  10. what about burgers and fries and fried chicken and …

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