Texting while driving banned in La.

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 28, 2010

Editor’s note: A quote from Trooper Scott Moreau has been changed below. Moreau says he was initially incorrectly quoted and wanted to clarify the message. The Democrat regrets any confusion.

VIDALIA — Texting while driving has been an issue of public safety to many for a while, and Louisiana lawmakers recently passed a bill making it illegal.

On Aug. 15 several new public safety laws took effect, and local law enforcement officials are excited about the safety possibilities.

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Texting is not the only thing state officials cracked down on. Citizens 17 years of age or younger will not be allowed to talk on their phones while driving.

Louisiana State Police Troop E Public Information Officer Senior Trooper Scott Moreau said the new law about texting is something that is needed.

“Driving is a physical skill,” Moreau said. “If you don’t have good hand-eye coordination or if you aren’t good at multitasking then texting or using your phone is a deterrent to your driving.”

Moreau said he hopes making it illegal is going to change the mind of some drivers who participate in the dangerous activity.

“If we as police officers say it is dangerous, some people will stop doing it,” he said. “Others won’t, if they get caught doing it, a citation costs them money. These tickets are for public safety.”

Moreau said he knows law enforcement will not be able to catch everyone who is texting, especially at first.

“We’re human,” Moreau said. “But we get good at what we do, and enforcing laws and arresting impaired individuals is what we do.”

Moreau said after a while, police officers are able to adapt to new laws and find ways to spot illegal activity.

“Officers can spot an expired vehicle tag at 55 mph,” he said. “We learn and acquire skills to help us catch people who break the law. Texting does cause a lot of accidents, and we are going to do what we can.”

Ferriday Police Chief Kenneth Hedrick said he believes the new law is a good one for public safety.

“People don’t realize the damage that can be done or what can happen when they aren’t paying attention while they are driving,” Hedrick said. “I’ve seen people do it before, and I have warned them of how dangerous it is.”

Hedrick said he knew this new law was going to be hard to prove and hard to catch.

“Even though you can’t catch everyone, it is definitely a good start,” he said. “Most people want to observe the law, and this is something that we just have to get used to looking for.”

Other new laws include:

Increasing the amount of time a minor with a learner’s permit will spend in supervised “behind-the-wheel” training to 50 hours, with at least 15 of those hours to include nighttime driving. Those drivers holding an intermediate license (unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, a licensed adult at least 21 years of age, or a licensed sibling at least 18 years of age), are restricted from driving from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. The law also restricts them from transporting more than one passenger that is under the age of 21 and who is not an immediate family member.

Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway with an improved shoulder have the option of riding on that improved shoulder rather than in the lane of travel. The new law also states that every bicycle, when in use at nighttime on a state highway, parish road, or city street, must be equipped with a rear lamp that emits a red flashing light or a red light sufficient to be seen from within 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear. It also requires the use of a front headlamp at night.

Driver’s education courses to include information on sharing the road with pedestrians, bicyclists and transit vehicles.

Synthetic cannabinoids are an illegal substance and are listed as a Schedule I drug under LA R.S. 40:966.

Drug free zones are expanded from 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet from designated properties.

Carrying a concealed handgun on any school, school property or school bus is prohibited, and concealed handgun permit holders are authorized to carry a concealed handgun within 1,000 feet of school property

The crime of pornography involving juveniles has been substantially redefined. This law makes the practice of “sexting” pornographic images of juveniles a crime.

The crime of cyberbullying has been created and is defined as the transmission of any electronic textual, visual, written or oral communication with the malicious and willful intent to coerce, abuse, torment or intimidate a person under the age of 18.