The current texting law calls for only “secondary enforcement,” meaning police need another reason to stop and cite offenders, such as weaving or driving too slowly.
“If it’s against the law, then why don’t we empower our law enforcement officers with the right tools to enforce it?” sponsor Sen. John Harms asked a committee hearing on LB 118. Harms is the author of the current texting law, which took effect July 1, 2010.
“No driver has any business text messaging while they are driving,” Harms said at the February hearing. “Simply put, lives are at stake every day.”
LB 118 did not win committee endorsement after the hearing. Another distracted driving measure that would have barred school bus drivers from using cell phones also languished.
- Text messaging outlawed for all drivers on Nebraska’s roads and highways. Fines $200-$500 plus 3 points against driver’s license.
- Drivers under the age of 18 with learner’s permits or other intermediate licenses are prohibited from using cell phones.
Read Nebraska’s text messaging statute.
Distracted driving legislation (2013):
Nebraska Legislative Bill 118: Seeks to make text messaging while driving a primary offense by removing secondary enforcement restriction of original legislation. (Harms)
LB 258: Would bar school bus drivers from use of wireless communications devices without dispatch functions. (Sullivan)
Distracted driving notes (2013):
State Sen. John Harms says Nebraska “isn’t ready” for a ban on handheld cell phone use by adult drivers. “I’ve given a lot of thought to cell phones, but I don’t think Nebraska is ready for this,” he told a transportation committee hearing in February 2013. “It’s just a battle” to get distracted driving legislation considered and passed, said the author of the state’s texting & driving law (LB 945 of 2010, below).
“Nebraska is in the minority in its relationship to widespread and uniform (distracted driving) policies of the nation,” Harms said of the texting law’s secondary enforcement limitation. His LB 118 of 2013 would have upped enforcement to primary, but it failed to clear committee.
In the first 2 1/2 years of the Nebraska texting law, 381 tickets were written.
2012 distracted driving legislation:
Nebraska Legislative Bill 875: Would prohibit use of handheld communications devices while driving through school crossing zones and work/construction zones. Would apply primary enforcement to violations by drivers with learner’s permits or other intermediate licenses (teenagers). Fines (same as texting): $200 (first), then $300 and then $500 plus 3 points. “Postponed indefinitely” as of April 2012. (Howard)
2011 distracted driving notes:
The Nebraska Office of Highway Safety says 1,119 crashes related to cell phone use occurred between 2002 and 2010. Six people were killed and 484 were injured. About a third of those accidents involved teen drivers. More than 80 cell phone-related crashes were logged in the first half of 2011.
One piece of distracted driving legislation was filed for the opening of the 2012 session. It would have outlawed use of handheld communications devices in school crossing zones and in work zones.
There were 3,500 distracted driving crashes in Nebraska during 2011, the state Office of Highway Safety reports. Those crashes led to 1,200 injuries and six deaths.
2010 distracted driving legislation:
Nebraska Legislative Bill 945: Would outlaw text messaging by all drivers. Secondary offense. Fines $200 for first offense; $300 for second; and $500 plus three points on the motorist’s license for subsequent violations. Approved by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee on March 2 and then, finally, by the full Legislature on April 8 (38-2-9 vote). The measure was sent to Gov. Dave Heineman, who signed it into law on April 13. (Harms)
2010 Nebraska legislation notes:
State Sen. John Harms is the author of Legislative Bill 945. It is the senator’s follow-up to his successful campaign to ban teens from texting and using cell phones while behind the wheel. Heineman vetoed the previous distracted driving measure for teens, but was overridden.
March 16′s first-round vote on the 2010 texting bill was 27-19 — with only two “yes” votes to spare over what is needed for passage.
An earlier Associated Press survey of Nebraska state legislators found 22 of them in favor of a texting ban. Five were opposed. (Six were unsure and 16 did not respond.)
A man who lost his 16-year-old daughter in an accident linked to another teen’s distracted driving testified Feb. 9 in support of LB 945. “I’m sure you wouldn’t want to tell me (in case of a death), ‘I’m sorry, I was just making a very important call. I was just dialing,” Rob Reynolds said. The transportation committee approved the bill March 2.
Previous legislation notes:
The ban on young drivers’ use of cell phones was enacted despite the governor’s veto. The bill was LB 415.
Sen. Norm Wallman, Cortland, who opposed LB 415, said the law shouldn’t apply to just teenagers. He told the World Herald that he would support a bill prohibiting all drivers from using cell phones.
“I figured if we are going to restrict teenagers we should restrict us all,” he said. “I’m definitely against texting.”
“Technology is getting ahead of us,” said former state Sen. Jim Cudaback of Riverdale, who sponsored an unsuccessful 2006 bill to prohibit cell phone use while driving. “(Legislative bills) shouldn’t be reactive but proactive.
“Nebraska is conservative, so some senators may need to see a need for this law before they approve it,’” he said. He introduced a similar bill in 2001.
National Transportation Safety Board representative Kathryn Higgins testified before a Nebraska Legislature panel in 2006, urging limits on cell phone use by young drivers.