Since the summer Kentucky drivers received only warnings for texting while driving but that probationary period ends Jan. 1, and state officials are reminding motorists that law enforcement is ready to slap them with a ticket.
Earlier this year, Kentucky joined other states and the District of Columbia when it passed a bill banning the practice for adults. The law is stricter for drivers younger than 18, who are prohibited from using a personal communication device altogether while operating a vehicle.
The law carries a fine of $25 on a first offense and $50 for each subsequent violation, plus court costs. Texting is allowed only to report illegal activity or to request medical or emergency aid.
Introduced by state Sen. Denise Harper Angel, D-Louisville, the measure’s goals is to keep drivers focused on the road and reduce the number of related accidents and deaths. In 2009, there were more than 57,000 crashes and more than 200 fatalities attributed to driver distraction, inattention and cell phone use.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, driver distraction and inattention contributes to 25 percent of police-responded traffic crashes nationwide. Inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
“Safety is a top priority of this administration,” Beshear said in a news release. “I am convinced that this new law, which many people worked with us to pass, will reduce crashes and fatalities on Kentucky roadways.”
For drivers under 18, the use of a global positioning system is still allowed, but manually entering information must be completed while the vehicle is stopped. The only exemption to the law are emergency and public safety vehicles who can use a personal communication device, which state officials say is essential to the operator’s official duties.
“We believe the law will encourage drivers to stay focused on the task at hand,” say Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock. “And with tighter provisions for those under 18, our new drivers will automatically be educated on this important safe driving practice.”