Vermont gets handheld cell law

Debbie Drewniak text messaging victim

Gov. Peter Shumlin wasn't entirely convinced, but Debbie Drewniak had no doubts as Vermont's handheld cell phone bill was signed into law. Drewniak, pictured, whose life nearly was ended by a teen who was texting and driving, was awarded the pen that Shumlin used to sign the distracted driving measure into law. It goes into effect Oct. 1, with fines ranging from $200 to $500. "This is an example where a governor listens and changes his mind," Shumlin said at the bill June 12 bill signing. The governor said he heard the voices of those Vermont residents who "desperately wanted this … [Read more...]

In Maryland, Jake’s Law approved

Distracted driving victim Jake Owen of Maryland

Deadly distractions won't be tolerated in Maryland. The state's governor signed "Jake's Law" on April 14, bringing closure of a kind to the family of a 5-year-old who died in a 2011 distracted driving crash. The law, which takes effect Oct. 1, means distracted drivers who kill or seriously injure others through their negligence are faced with a year's incarceration and a $5,000 fine. In addition, 12 points will be assessed vs. the driver's license. The driver who slammed into the family car and killed Jake Owen was fined $1,000, convicted of a pair of traffic offenses. He was using … [Read more...]

In South Dakota, a texting turf war

Rep. Brian Gosch of South Dakota

South Dakota finds itself in the midst of a turf war over distracted driving legislation. The House speaker, an opponent of previous distracted driving legislation, proposed a bill for 2014 that would discard the state's crazy quilt of local laws regarding texting and cell phones. At a contentious House hearing Feb. 5, state Rep. Brian Gosch, left, amended his bill to include a statewide ban on texting & driving. Critics said his intent was to eliminate local authority over distracted driving and replace the ordinances with a watered-down state law. Updates: That bill passed the House … [Read more...]

The year in distracted driving: 2013

2013-year-review

The year 2013 saw plenty of action on the distracted driving front -- from the legislatures to the courts to the streets. The year started with a bang as the nation's No. 1 fighter of distracted driving stepped down. Here's a look back: LaHood says he's leaving (Jan. 29): U.S. Department of Transportation chief Ray LaHood confirms he's stepping down from his Cabinet-level post. The move, while expected, was widely seen as a blow to the fight against distracted driving at the national level. LaHood, left, detailed a string of DOT achievements during his tenure, beginning with the efforts to … [Read more...]

2014′s new distracted driving laws

california texting ban for teen drivers

New distracted driving laws greet the New Year in a handful of states, notably Illinois, Oregon, Vermont and California. In Illinois, holding a cell phone while driving becomes illegal Jan. 1. The state already prohibits text messaging while driving. Fines range from $75 (first offense) to $150. In Oregon, fines for texting and using handheld mobile phones while driving increase to as much as $500. Most violators will pay $250 plus fees for texting and cell phone convictions -- less than the new maximum. The old maximum fine, $250, will be doubled as of Jan. 1. In Vermont, penalties … [Read more...]