Kentucky

Texting while driving could cost you in 2011

Last August, students texted while taking a spin on a driving simulator acquired by Fayette County attorney Larry Roberts. Traffic schools are using the simulators to show the dangers of distracted driving.
Last August, students texted while taking a spin on a driving simulator acquired by Fayette County attorney Larry Roberts. Traffic schools are using the simulators to show the dangers of distracted driving.

FRANKFORT — Ignore your phone. Otherwise, it could cost you in 2011.

Come Saturday, drivers older than 18 could face a $25 fine if they are caught texting while driving.

Drivers under 18 could face similar fines for using cell phones at all — either to talk or to text.

The law, passed last year, is designed to curb the number of traffic-related fatalities attributed to driving while distracted.

That number has steadily climbed as cell phone use has increased.

"Texting or using a cell phone takes the driver's focus off the road," said Lt. David Jude, commander of the Kentucky State Police Public Affairs Branch. "For instance, every second that you take your eyes off the road when your speed is 70 mph, your vehicle travels 102 feet."

Police will issue tickets of $25 for a first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses. Plus, the driver will have to pay court costs. The law went into effect July 15, but police will start issuing tickets Saturday. The law applies only to drivers whose cars are moving.

In 2009, a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration study estimated 5,474 people died because of distracted driving and 448,000 people were injured. That's roughly 16 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2009, up from 10 percent in 2005.

But national transportation officials have warned those numbers might not be accurate because not all police agencies cite cell phone use as an accident's cause. The actual number of people killed because of distracted driving is probably higher, officials have said.

Teenagers are more likely to text and talk while driving. The NHTSA study showed that 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 who were involved in fatal crashes were reportedly distracted. That's why Kentucky's law prohibits all cell phone use for drivers younger than 18.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has held two national summits on distracted driving over the past two years to raise awareness about the problem.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has launched a public education campaign about distracted driving titled "Put it Down."

"A text message or cell phone call can wait — but the safety of you, your family and other motorists on the road is much more important," Jude said.

  Comments