Police testimony targets texting

CARSON CITY -- Police told lawmakers Thursday they want drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and not on their cell phones.

But some lawmakers expressed concern about how a proposed bill banning texting while driving would be enforced.

"It's a great bill, but how are we going to enforce it?" asked Assemblyman Jerry Claborn, D-Las Vegas, during an Assembly Transportation Committee hearing. "I am all for saving lives, but I am also for protecting rights as well."

Instead of approving Senate Bill 136, Claborn said legislators and the public should be warning their children about the dangers of text-messaging while operating a vehicle.

No action was taken on the bill, which passed in the Senate. An Assembly vote is likely in the next few weeks.

A line of police testified Thursday in support of the bill and said it will save lives.

"We will enforce it like any law," said Las Vegas Police Protective Association lobbyist David Kallas. "We will base it on what we see."

Kallas said he was driving recently in Las Vegas and saw a young woman driving with her knees and figured she was probably texting.

"You don't know for sure," Claborn responded. "Won't this flood our courts overnight?"

Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, said she introduced the bill because of what she has seen while driving.

"I can't tell you how many times I have seen someone focused on typing something in a cell phone rather than concentrating on driving. Eighty percent of crashes involve driver inattention."

Breeden cited the recent train accident in California in which 25 people were killed while the engineer was text-messaging on his cell phone.

"This (bill) is not just for children," she said. "It is for all of us."

Under the bill, text messagers would be fined $20 for the first offense, $50 for the second and $100 for the third and subsequent offenses. The offense would be treated as a minor citation, not as a moving violation. Police officers would be allowed to pull over motorists suspected of texting.

Seventeen states have laws prohibiting text-messaging while operating a motor vehicle. On Jan. 1, California started its ban on text-messaging while driving. July 1, California banned the use of hand-held cell phones by drivers.

Nevada does not have a law limiting the use of cell phones.

Nevada Highway Patrol Chief Chris Perry testified clear signs exist when drivers are possibly text-messaging.

"They change lanes, follow too closely or speed," he said.

Contact reporter Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.


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