Fine for texting and driving could jump to $500 for first offense
NEW ORLEANS - Fines for texting while driving could see a dramatic increase in the near future.
While there’s already a state law against texting and driving, Senator Yvonne Colomb is looking to have the associated fine raised from $175 to $500 for the first offense. The maximum fine would also go up from $500 to $1,000 for second offenses.
Beth Inbau of the National Safety Council of South Louisiana says the risk of serious injury from a crash increases fourfold when drivers are on the cell phone while driving.
“Texting is even worse because you're taking your eyes off the road," Inbau said. "You're taking your hands off the wheel. More importantly, you're taking your mind off the road.”
Mellissa Matey of Louisiana State Police spelled out the current rules.
"The text messaging law says you cannot read, write or send, a text message or an email behind the wheel of a vehicle," Matey said. "You're also not allowed to do any social media behind the wheel. So, you can't update [your] Facebook status. You shouldn't be taking pictures while you're driving.”
Matey says State Police are increasing their watchfulness when it comes to spotting texting drivers on the road.
“We look at what's going on inside the vehicle, and we look at what that vehicle is doing," Matey said. "By Louisiana law, every driver is supposed to maintain control of that vehicle, and that's where the careless operation citation can come into play.”
In 2016, there have been 806 auto accidents in the state attributed to distracted driving connected to cell phone use. Last year, Louisiana saw 2,340 accidents because of drivers who were distracted by cell phones. More than 800 of those wrecks resulted in injury and five resulted in deaths.
The proposed law has already passed a vote by the State Senate and now heads to the House for a final vote.