LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Some Kentucky lawmakers want to put the brakes on distracted driving.
Legislators have filed at least two bills that would ban the use of cellphones and other electronic devices while driving.
Lynda Lambert of AAA Louisville said driving while distracted has become as serious a problem as driving while drunk.
“It's become one of the most dangerous problems we face on the roads today,” Lambert said. “Just as much as drinking and driving and drugged driving, distracted driving is a huge problem for one reason: cellphones.”
According to 2018 Kentucky State Police data, distraction, cellphone use and inattention caused more than 57,022 crashes and 139 deaths in the state. That compares to just over 5,068 crashes and 124 deaths blamed on alcohol and drugs.
“Anything that we have seen and have data to prove it's a danger, then I think it's our responsibility to act on that,” said Rep. Regina Huff, a Republican from Williamsburg.
Huff has pre-filed a bill that would essentially make Kentucky a hands-free state. The use of electronic devices would be banned except in emergencies.
“The driver can't have any type of device, period, and use it while driving,” Huff said.
Violators would be fined $50 for a first offense and $100 after that.
“The fine goes up exponentially when it's in a school zone or a work zone,” Huff said.
Texting while driving is already illegal in Kentucky, but it seems to stop few from doing it. Huff hopes a more sweeping law will be more effective.
“I'm well aware that we're not going to stop everyone, and it's not going to be roadblocks, but it will be a deterrent,” she said. “Hopefully, that will cause a majority of the people not to do it.”
Huff said the bill would lead to more use of hands-free devices in vehicles, and she understands those who believe the proposal would infringe on their rights.
“But I also have children and grandchildren on the road, and it's not that much to just make sure that you're not endangering the lives of others when you're driving,” she said.
Huff's bill is modeled closely after the Tennessee Hands-free Law that went into effect in July.
According to the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, there have been 18,892 distracted-driving crashes in Tennessee as of Oct. 24, 2019. This time last year, there were 19,995 distracted-driving crashes statewide.
Rep. James Tipton (R-Taylorsville) and Steve Shelton(R-Bowling Green) have also co-sponsored a bill that would ban the use of personal communication devices while driving.
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