Texting and Driving in Louisiana, laws go far enough?

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Louisiana State law says that it is a violation of state law to text and drive while operating a vehicle.  However, Louisiana State Representative Austin Badon wants to take it one step further and ban the usage of handheld devices while driving a vehicle. Badon says he understands the need for communication and is not against the use of speaker phones or bluetooth devices on electronic equipment. His issue is mainly with the act of picking up a device and having to look down to choose a song, letter, etc...

In Lake Charles, since last year, there have been 89 reported accidents stemming from the usage of handheld electronic devices while driving.  The fine for getting caught texting and driving is $175 for the first time offender. The second time offender is hit with a $500 fine. If there is a crash resulting from texting and driving, those fines double.  On September 1, 2011, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi there is a case where a school bus driver was driving a school bus and caused an accident because he allegedly was texting while driving.

But a fine is nothing compared with the images and testimonies heard in AT&T's video "Texting Can Wait". It is a 10 min documentary of real stories by teens who still remember the last words that were texted to their loved ones. In one case a teen recalls texting and making sure to look up every few seconds not realizing that he hit a bicyclist, and ultimately killing that bicyclist. (AT&T Video found here.)

State Rep. Badon plans on passing a new handsfree cell phone bill into law very soon. Badon says since this is an election year  "we need to make a difference in the safety of all, distractions are distractions and there are other ways to communicate with hands free devices. All I am asking is that we start making people accountable for using entertainment devices that may ultimately take another person's life". He says to make your own inquiry, contact your District Representative.


RS:  32:300.5

300.5.  Use of certain wireless telecommunications devices for text messaging prohibited

A.(1)  Except as provided in Subsection B of this Section, no person shall operate any motor vehicle upon any public road or highway of this state while using a wireless telecommunications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication.  For purposes of this Section, a person shall not be deemed to be writing, reading, or sending a text message if the person reads, selects, or enters a telephone number or name in a wireless telecommunications device for the purpose of making a telephone call.

(2)(a)  "Wireless telecommunications device" means a cellular telephone, a text-messaging device, a personal digital assistant, a stand alone computer, or any other substantially similar wireless device that is readily removable from the vehicle and is used to write, send, or read text or data through manual input.  A "wireless telecommunications device" shall not include any device or component that is permanently affixed to a motor vehicle.  It does not include citizens band radios, citizens band radio hybrids, commercial two-way radio communication devices, or electronic communication devices with a push-to-talk function.

(b)  "Write, send, or read a text-based communication" means using a wireless telecommunications device to manually communicate with any person by using a text-based communication referred to as a text message, instant message, or electronic mail.

B.  The provisions of this Section shall not apply to the following:

(1)  Any law enforcement officer, firefighter, or operator of an authorized emergency vehicle while engaged in the actual performance of his official duties.

(2)  An operator of a moving motor vehicle using a wireless telecommunications device to:

(a)  Report illegal activity.

(b)  Summon medical or other emergency help.

(c)  Prevent injury to a person or property.

(d)  Relay information between a transit or for-hire operator and that operator's dispatcher, in which the device is permanently affixed to the vehicle.

(e)  Navigate using a global positioning system.

(3)  A physician or other health care provider using a wireless telecommunications device to communicate with a hospital, health clinic or the office of the physician, or to otherwise provide for the health care of an individual or medical emergency through a text-based communication.

C.(1)  The first violation of the provisions of this Section shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred seventy-five dollars.

(2)  Each subsequent violation shall be punishable by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars.

(3)  If the person is involved in a crash at the time of violation, then the fine shall be equal to double the amount of the standard fine imposed in this Subsection and the law enforcement officer investigating the crash shall indicate on the written accident form that the person was using a wireless telecommunications device at the time of the crash.

(4)  Any violation of this Section shall constitute a moving violation.

Acts 2008, No. 665, §1, eff. July 1, 2008; Acts 2010, No. 203, §1.