CARSON CITY — State employees cannot use cell phones or send text messages while operating state-owned vehicles under a regulation approved unanimously Tuesday by the state Board of Examiners.
Although there are no penalties, state Budget Director Andrew Clinger expects employees will follow the rule.
“It is very dangerous to drive and talk on a cell phone or text,” Clinger said after the vote.
Gov. Jim Gibbons, Secretary of State Ross Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto all voted for the new rule without comment.
The rule comes at a time when Nevada legislators are preparing at least five bills that would ban every motorist in the state from using cell phones and texting while driving.
A group of community organizations this week launched its No Phone Zone effort to try to get people to stop “distracted driving.”
Supporters will sign a pledge not to use cell phones, text or do other things in a vehicle to prevent them from fully concentrating on driving.
The state has a law against distracted driving that some interpret as allowing police to cite people for texting or using cell phones.
A study found 63 people in Nevada have died in accidents in the past five years when they were distracted.
The chances of a cell phone ban receiving approval in 2011 might have improved Monday when Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, announced the appointment of Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, as chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
A bill that would have outlawed texting while driving passed the Senate in 2009 but was killed in the Assembly.
Breeden plans to introduce a bill next year to prohibit drivers from texting or reading text messages while driving.
Her bill will go a step further: It would prohibit drivers from using cell phones.
“I think people realize it is a serious issue and lives are at stake,” Breeden said Tuesday. “Now the state is banning it. We are doing it as a safety issue. I am hopeful.”
Breeden said her bill will propose a $250 fine for the first offense and greater fines for subsequent offenses.
Sen.-elect Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, and the state Office of Traffic Safety also are preparing bills to prohibit texting and speaking on cell phones while driving.
Manendo tried unsuccessfully in two previous sessions to pass bills outlawing cell phone use by all drivers. He said this time he is confident that at least underage drivers will be blocked from using cell phones and texting.
“I have been told some kids even are playing GameBoys and Facebooking while driving,” Manendo said in an earlier interview. “Some also are addicted to texting. They have to text back as soon as they receive a text.”
Eight states, including California, Oregon and Washington, prohibit all drivers from using cell phones while driving. Twenty-eight states prohibit juvenile drivers from using cell phones.
Thirty states ban texting by all drivers, while an additional eight states restrict only juvenile drivers from texting.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.