Douglas signs texting bill - Bennington Banner
Douglas signs texting bill
NEAL P. GOSWAMI
Posted: 06/01/2010 10:59:49 PM EDT
Tuesday June 1, 2010
BENNINGTON -- Tapping out a message or e-mail on a phone could be costly in Vermont, after Gov. James Douglas signed a texting bill Tuesday banning the use of handheld devices by drivers.
Douglas signed the new texting ban at Montpelier High School. Consequences for violating the law took effect immediately. First-time offenders will pay a $100 fine if caught sending or reading a text message while driving. Each subsequent offense within two years of the first offense will carry a $250 fine.
"Today, Vermont joined 26 other states in making it an offense to text while driving. Texting is clearly an unsafe distraction on our roads, and now our laws reflect that reality. We must continue to reach out and educate drivers about the danger of texting while driving," Douglas said.
The new law is even more restrictive for younger drivers. The use of cell phones for calls, and the use of other electronic devices, is now banned for all 16- and 17-year-old drivers. Teenagers can lose a learner’s permit or junior operator license for 30 days after a single texting violation.
The law is a primary offense, which means law enforcement officers can stop motorists suspected of this offense without any additional violations.
Vermont State Police Lt. Reginald Trayah, commander of the Shaftsbury Barracks, called the new ban "a good idea." He said texting, like all motorist distractions, is a danger for everyone."
troopers under his command will approach the new law in the same manner as other motor vehicle violations. "I think we’re probably going to deal with it like we do most things -- good common sense and aggressive motor vehicle work," he said.
Troopers on patrol typically see people texting when they are stopped at a light or sign, or when they’re stuck in a traffic jam, according to Trayah.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood hailed the bill signing. LaHood has been a vocal advocate of a nationwide ban on texting while driving.
"Everyone on Vermont’s roads will be safer because this ban was signed into law. Distracted driving is an extremely dangerous practice that kills thousands and injures hundreds of thousands every year. And texting while driving is especially risky," LaHood said.
State troopers routinely give presentations to driver education classes and other student groups about safety, Trayah said. Texting and other distracted driving will be incorporated into those presentations, he said.
"It’s about decisions and consequences, and I think something like this could easily be put into a presentation," Trayah said. "I think it will be very quickly into the routine."
Motorists of all ages will need to adjust their habits, Trayah said.
"It’s going to be a big change for a lot of people, not just kids. We’ve all been guilty of it before in our fast-paced world."