Unicameral looks at strengthening distracted driving laws - News, Weather and Sports for Lincoln, NE; KLKNTV.com

Unicameral looks at strengthening distracted driving laws

By: Bill Schammert

Soon officers and deputies may be able to pull you over simply if they notice you're unbuckled, or texting and driving.

As it stands right now, those are both secondary offenses. This means a law enforcement officer must witness you violate another traffic law, like speeding or running a red light, before they can ticket you for a secondary violation.

That's why Scottsbluff Sen. John Harms is proposing LB-807. A law that would make distracted driving and not wearing your seatbelt primary offences.

"Our law enforcement officers will tell you, they simply want the tools to be able to correct this." Sen. Harms said.

Rob Reynolds testified he will do whatever he can to strengthen the state's distracted driving laws. In 2007, Reynolds lost his 16-year-old daughter after a distracted teenager T-boned her car going 49-miles-per-hour.

"I'll never hug her again or see any of my grandchildren," he said. "And I'll never stop pushing for stronger laws against distracted driving behaviors."

Right now, Nebraska is one of just four states where distracted driving is a secondary offense. It's one of only 17 states where not wearing your seatbelt is also a secondary offense.

"Nebraska no doubt needs to catch up," Sen. Harms said.

At a hearing on Tuesday, some senators were worried about racial profiling, burden of proof and how officers could truly enforce the traffic offenses as primary violations.

Beverly Reicks with the National Safety Council says she has confidence in Nebraska drivers.

"When something is law, we are going to follow it," she said. "Particularly when it's a primary offense and there is a consequence."

The bill gets even more stringent for younger drivers. If a driver with a provisional permit in the Graduated License Program is witnessed violating those provisions, an officer can now ticket that person.

Currently, these violations are also secondary laws. They include, among other things, using your cell phone in any sort of way or driving with more than one passenger under the age of 19.


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