Cell phone usage changes in 2011

Louisville, KY - By Matt McCutcheon | e-mail | bio

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The issue of using a cell phone while driving continues to be a hotly debated topic among Kentucky lawmakers, but there's a new law coming to the Bluegrass state to address the issue.

Come January, what you do on your cell phone will be a little more limited.  That's when it becomes illegal to text or send an e-mail while driving in Kentucky, but one lawmaker who talked to WAVE 3 News says that isn't enough.

"We've been trying to pass it for a number of years.  This is the first time we were able to get it through the process and get it to the governor's desk," Rep. Reggie Meeks said Friday, May 7, 2010.

Some area lawmakers say their fight isn't over yet.  Rep. Meeks is just one a few lawmakers that want to see cell phone usage while driving restricted even more.

While he admits it may be a case of more government involvement, he says it's needed to save lives.

"More than 200 people in the commonwealth of Kentucky have been killed on our roads because of distracted driving and because of cell phone use and because of texting... that's far too high a price to pay," Rep. Meeks said.

He says he's willing to look at exceptions -- such as devices that would allow you to talk on your phone while driving, without actually having to hold the phone up to your face.

"We encourage it and we would carve out an exception for the use of hands free devices.  We absolutely would encourage that," Rep. Meeks told WAVE 3 News.
Police officers will issue warnings if you're caught texting or e-mailing while driving until January 1st, 2011.

That's when it gets a little more costly.  You'll have to pay $25 for your first offense and then $50 after that, plus court costs.

Rep. Meeks says there were 126,091 crashes in the Bluegrass state during 2009, and he says 57,291 of those were because of distracted driving.

He estimates 204 people died in those crashes, something he hopes whatever form of the bill – and future bills – will prevent.

Copyright 2010 WAVE 3 News.  All rights reserved.