Lawmakers look to strengthen texting and driving law - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE;

Lawmakers look to strengthen texting and driving law

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By: Bill Schammert

Lawmakers are looking to crack down even harder on texting and driving.  Monday, they heard emotional testimony from a young Nebraska girl whose life was changed forever because of just one text.

Erin Smith describes waking up in the hospital on August 25th, 2010.

"The next thing I asked my dad was, 'Dad, why am I not dead?' And he replied, 'Nobody is quite sure,'" Smith testified on Monday.

That day, Smith was trying to send a text message reading 'i k rite'.  The next thing she knew, she was ejected from her car, which then rolled on top of her.

She suffered several broken bones, a brain hemorrhage and has tallied up more than $250 thousand in hospital bills.

On Monday, she wanted the Nebraska legislature to hear her story.

"Everyday I ask myself if that one text was really worth it, and the answer is no," Smith said.

People like Smith are one of the many reasons Scottsbluff Sen. John Harms has introduced a bill to make texting and driving a primary offense.  Currently, it's only a secondary offense.

Sen. Harms told the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee that since the law went into effect in July of 2010, 381 citations have been issued statewide.

"No driver has any business text messaging while they're driving," Sen. Harms said.  "Simply put, lives are at stake every day."

Distracted driving wasn't the only safety issue the committee heard about on Monday.  Senators also brought forth two different bills that would make not wearing your seatbelt also a primary offense.  One would make it a $25 fine, the other, a $100 fine.

"These things save lives," Dr. Joseph Stothert testified.  Dr. Stothert is a professor of surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

According to the numerous testimonies in support of the bill, more than 3,300 unbelted people have died on Nebraska roads since 1993.

"The more restrained you are, the more protected you are, the longer you live," Dr. Stothert testified.

Nobody testified at the hearing against either seatbelt bill, nor against the texting and driving bill.

However, the ACLU and the Safety Choice Administration each issued letters on the record against both seatbelt bills.

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