Bill would ban drivers from texting, using hand-held cells

CARSON CITY -- Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki expressed what a lot of people were thinking after Sen. Shirley Breeden introduced her bill Thursday to outlaw all drivers from using hand-held cell phones and texting.

"I will have to change my driving habits," said Krolicki, who serves as the parliamentarian of the state Senate.

Breeden, D-Henderson, feels optimistic about her Senate Bill 140 becoming law -- unlike two years ago when her similar bill passed the Senate but died in the Assembly.

"I haven't heard anyone say they oppose the bill," she said. "They come up to me and say, 'But Shirley, I depend on texting.' "

If the bill becomes law, then there is a pretty big club in it to induce drivers to obey.

For a first violation, the fine would be $250. A second violation carries a $500 fine. For a third offense, the fine would be $1,000, and the offender would be suspended from driving for six months.

The big fines should persuade parents to impress upon their driving-age children that they should avoid cell phones and texting when they are behind the wheel, Breeden said.

Thirty states prohibit texting by all drivers. Another eight prohibit texting by juvenile drivers.

No state completely prohibits cell phone use for all drivers. Eight, including California, outlaw hand-held cell phone use by drivers. Breeden patterned her bill after California's law.

She said Bluetooth and other devices that allow drivers to talk hands-free can be bought for as little as $15.

Breeden said her only motive in introducing the bill is to protect the public. Driving while texting is more dangerous than driving drunk, she said, noting that texting drivers can run off the highway and hit people walking on sidewalks.

At least five other bills dealing with texting and cell phones are expected to be introduced at the 2011 Legislature.

One is by Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, who tried in two previous sessions to outlaw cell phone use by drivers.

He is confident that this time a law will be passed that at least outlaws cell phone use and texting by underage drivers.

Nevada already has a law against distracted driving, which has led to some questioning why the state needs another law.

Sixty-three people died in car accidents in the past five years because of distracted driving, according to the Office of Traffic Safety.

The state Board of Examiners in November passed a regulation prohibiting texting and talking on cell phones when state workers operate state-owned cars. But there is no penalty if they ignore the regulation.

Breeden said that police testified in support of her bill two years ago. She said a law targeting cell phone use and texting will lead to more police enforcement.

Breeden also said it is obvious that people cannot talk on hand-held cell phones or text without it adversely affecting their driving.

While driving home Wednesday, she said, she saw a driver ahead of her suddenly zigzag on his lane. Then she saw that the driver held a cell phone.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at or 775-687-3901.