Bill bars texting while driving

Associated Press Writer

CARSON CITY, Nev. ” A plan to prohibit Nevada motorists, including police and emergency personnel, from text-messaging on cell phones while driving was resurrected Monday, the final day of the 2009 Nevada Legislature.

The Senate Finance Committee voted to take most of the wording in SB136, which died earlier in an Assembly committee, and graft it onto SB309, which until now had dealt with motorcycles and mopeds.

Freshman Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, whose SB136 was shelved in the Assembly, told Finance Committee members the amendment to SB309 would prohibit a motorist from using a cell phone to write, read or send a text message if the vehicle is in motion or at a stop sign or traffic light.

Using the phone to look up a stored number or make or receive a call would be OK. The fine would be $75 for each infraction and is not considered a moving violation. Fines under the original plan increased with each offense.

Breeden said the idea is “just to bring about awareness to drivers who do not pay attention to the road,” adding that the large amounts of daily text messages show the need for such legislation.

“In 2008 there was over 1 trillion text messages sent nationally, so it’s an issue. We have to look ahead and make sure our state is safe with good policy,” said Breeden.

I’m not going to give up the fight,” Breeden added when asked by Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, why she thought the Assembly would handle SB309 any differently than her initial proposal, SB136.

Erin Breen, director of the Safe Community Partnership Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said in previous testimony that the American Safety Council and the American Medical Association have called for a nationwide ban on texting while driving.

Critics have questioned how the bill would be enforced, saying that it would be impossible to tell whether drivers were using cell phones to send a text message, dial a phone number or download map directions.

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