Politics & Government

Kansas measures would crack down on cellphone use while driving

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Photo illustration File photo

Two bills in the Kansas Senate would crack down on cellphone use behind the wheel.

Kansas already prohibits writing texts or e-mails while driving. SB 99 would prohibit holding up a phone or other wireless device “to the person’s ear.”

Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City, said the bill would help become an education tool against distracted driving.

“We need to make our roads safer in Kansas,” Pettey said. “This is just another piece of legislation directed toward distracted driving by having your hands occupied by a phone.”

Sen. Jeff Skubal, R-Overland Park, said distracted driving from cellphones can be as dangerous as drunken driving.

“It’s a problem and we need some solution to it,” Skubal said.

The Kansas Department of Transportation supports the bill. According to the department, cellphone distractions contributed to nearly 3,000 accidents and 29 fatalities between 2009 and 2014.

“Enhancements to the current statute should make it easier to educate, explain and understand the importance of not driving distracted,” according to KDOT.

We need to make our roads safer in Kansas.

Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City

Another bill, SB 144, would outlaw using a wireless device in a school zone or a road construction zone. The fine for what would be a nonmoving violation would be $60. There’s an exception for using a hands-free device.

Sen. Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, said it was a more narrow bill than the other proposal.

“I can’t think of a more dangerous place where things happen unexpectedly than in a school zone where children are,” Schmidt said.

Law enforcement lobbyist Ed Klumpp urged lawmakers to pass the bill.

“This very limited approach is a good step to address the overarching problem of distracted driving,” he said in written testimony.

Did you know that when you send or receive a text you take your eyes off the road for 5 seconds? At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field, blindfolded. (Courtesy of NHTSA)

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar

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