CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - It's official, texting and driving in Kentucky is now illegal for all drivers. And so is using a cell phone for drivers under the age of 18 when they're behind the wheel of a car.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed that into law Thursday.
The Governor said he couldn't spell it out any more clearly by banning texting, especially when Kentucky recorded 57,000 crashes last year due to driver distraction, inattention and cell phone use.
There is a large safety sign flashing over I-75 like a giant text message. "Drive Smart Kentucky," it reads.
Governor Beshear hopes this new law banning texting while driving will help drivers make smarter and safer choices on the road.
"Driving on it's own accord is a multi-task function," said Trooper Rick Saint-Blancard of Kentucky State Police Post 6 in Grant County. "If you really want to drive defensively you've got to constantly scan your mirrors every 3-5 seconds, you've got to look behind you, you have to keep a proper space cushion between you and the car in front of you."
Saint-Blancard said when you text at the wheel, your perception-reaction time drops.
"You're not really focused and prepared in your mind to respond accordingly, even with the hands free feature on phones," Saint-Blancard said.
"I have made the mistake," he said. "I have used the phone a few times, and I can tell you I would look back and say man, I can't believe I traveled 10 miles or 15 miles because I'm not thinking about what I'm doing."
Truckers FOX19 spoke with said drivers who are texting are easy to spot and similar to someone driving drunk.
"Weaving back and forth in the road or taking a nosedive for your truck," said Lafe Mead who is a 35-year veteran trucker. "I've had several of them come at the front wheel, look down and that's what they're doing texting on their telephone."
"Generally when I see that going on I slow down and let that individual get on out of the way," said trucker Allen Phillips. "If they're right next to you side by side, just let off the throttle and let 'em get out of the way."
The Governor said the idea of the ban is to keep you focused on your car and on the road ahead, and not looking down at your phone or you could be looking at some bright blue flashing light in your rear view mirror.
Kimberly Hicks is 16 years old and ready to start driving. She admits she is an avid texter.
"Something could be important or something as long as you're not like with your phone right up here where you're supposed to be looking if it's down you can do both," she said.
Her stepmother Kelly Duddey is unhappy about the new law.
"I don't really agree with the law although do agree that you shouldn't text and drive," Duddey said.
The top two causes of crashes are distraction and inexperience.
"We become slaves to these things and so sometimes you're driving, it's a phone call, guess what, what's priority? it's safety while you're driving," said Trooper Saint-Blancard.
Kentucky State Troopers said to let calls go to voicemail.
The 16-year-old we interviewed, Kimberly Hicks, said her drivers-ed teachers are telling the students not to text and drive.
This law goes into effect January 1st, 2011. Be prepared to pay $25 for your first offense and $50 for each offense after that and roughly 150 bucks in court costs. Police will be issuing warning until Jan. 1