Ky. gov. signs texting while driving ban into law

FRANKFORT, KY (FOX19) - Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has signed a bill into law that will ban texting while driving for all drivers and all cell phone use for drivers under 18.

In December 2009, Gov. Beshear launched his Eyes on the Road effort --an executive order prohibiting text messaging by state employees who are driving government-owned vehicles.

"The ban on texting will help increase awareness and encourage drivers to stay focused on the task at hand," Gov. Beshear said.  "Safety is a top priority of this administration and we will continue our efforts to reduce fatalities on Kentucky roadways."

The law bans texting for drivers of all ages while the vehicle is in motion.  For drivers over 18, it allows the use of global positioning devices and reading, selecting or entering a telephone number or name for the purpose of making a phone call.  Texting is allowed only to report illegal activity or to request medical or emergency aid.

For drivers under 18, no use of personal communication devices such as cell phones and pagers is allowed while the vehicle is in motion.  The use of a global positioning system is allowed, but manually entering information must be completed while the vehicle is stopped.

Emergency and public safety vehicles are exempt when the use of a personal communication device is essential to the operator's official duties.

Law enforcement officers will issue warnings until Jan. 1, 2011.  On or after January 1, violators will be liable for fines of $25 on a first offense and $50 on each subsequent offense, plus court costs.

Kentucky recorded more than 57,000 crashes last year due to driver distraction, inattention and cell phone use. There were 791 fatalities on Kentucky roadways in 2009, declining for the fourth consecutive year.  More than 200 of those fatalities were attributed to distraction, inattention or cell phone use.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving distracted drivers, and more than a half million were injured. Inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.

Kentucky is the 22nd state to ban texting while driving. Twelve states banned texting while driving in 2009. So far in 2010, Iowa and Wyoming have similar laws. Legislation is pending in various other states.

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