Coalition Supports Bill to Ban Teenage Texting While Driving

March 19, 2009

Legislation Aims To Promote Improved Safety By Protecting Motorists From Distracted Drivers

JACKSON, Miss., March 19 /PRNewswire/ — A bipartisan coalition of Mississippi state lawmakers, Cellular South and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety is supporting efforts to win passage of a bill that would restrict cell phone texting while driving by teenagers.

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Led by State Senate Pro Tempore Billy Hewes, R-Gulfport, the coalition includes Senators Tom King, R-Petal, Sampson Jackson II, D-DeKalb, and Lee Yancey, R-Brandon, along with Cellular South, the nation’s largest privately owned wireless communications carrier, and Mississippi

Department of Public Safety Commissioner Steve Simpson.

Lawmakers are considering a Mississippi House of Representatives amendment to Senate Bill 2280 by Senator Kelvin Butler, D-Magnolia, which would prohibit 15- and 16-year-old teenagers with intermediate licenses and temporary learning and driving permits from texting while driving.

Under the legislation, violators of the texting ban could be fined up to $500 for each infraction and up to $1,000 if the driver is involved in an accident while texting on a cell phone. Nine states already prohibit teenagers from texting while driving and another seven states have a text messaging ban for drivers of all ages.

“This legislation is a good first step,” Hewes said in urging passage of the bill. “It is our role as leaders to step in where there is an absence of policy. This language protects motorists while at the same time recognizing the benefits of cellular innovation. We, as parents, enjoy a greater level of comfort knowing our children can call if they have a flat, an accident or any other emergency. At the same time, good defensive driving requires the full attention of the driver.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Mississippi has led the nation for the last decade in the percentage of teenage driving fatalities with a rate of 35 deaths per 100,000 population. “Texting while driving is just too dangerous for anyone at any age,” Hewes said, noting that many of Mississippi’s rural roads have higher speed limits, less traffic and fewer nearby medical services.

While some wireless carriers are opposed to any restrictions on cell phone use while driving, Cellular South strongly supports the legislation and a ban on text messaging by all drivers, according to Terrell Knight, director of government accounts for the Mississippi-based wireless communications provider. “We agree with Senator Hewes, law enforcement, the National Safety Council and other highly-regarded safety organizations on several key issues, including a ban on text messaging while driving for all motorists and restrictions on cellular phone use by teens or inexperienced drivers,” Knight said.

Knight said texting while driving is one of many well-known and proven potential driving distractions, including drowsiness, personal grooming, eating, and reading. “We believe that safe, sensible and limited use of a cell phone when you’re behind the wheel is possible. There are certainly inappropriate times to make or take a call and your number one priority is always operating the vehicle safely,” he said.

“Responsible policy marries the interest of public safety with the ability of business to compete and thrive,” Knight said. “As the father of two teenage drivers, I know driving is a privilege, having a cell phone is also a privilege – both entail responsibility and must be earned on an on-going basis.”

If adopted, the Mississippi Department of Public Safety plans to enforce the texting while driving prohibition as a primary law. “This prohibition on texting by teenagers while driving can and will save lives,” said Commissioner Steve Simpson. “There are hands-free options for the appropriate use of a cell phone in a car. While this is not comprehensive legislation, it stands to correct or curb what has become a dangerous habit among our next generation of drivers.”

About Cellular South

Cellular South is a privately-owned diversified mobile communications company passionately committed to helping customers get the most out of their wireless devices and services. The company accomplishes this goal by providing the most reliable and advanced 3G nationwide wireless voice and data network, offering industry-leading family and unlimited flat rate voice, text and mobile web plans, and through its online and in-store Discover Centers, which give customers easy, simple and convenient tools, tips, advice and information to get the most out of their mobile phone. For more information, visit www.cellularsouth.com.

SOURCE Cellular South

Source: newswire

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