Officers warn: Texting while driving now a fineable offense

Lindsay Kriz

As of Jan. 1, there has been a new price to pay for texting while driving — literally.

Anyone pulled over for texting is now subject to receiving a ticket thanks to Kentucky House Bill 415, signed into law by Gov. Steve Beshear on April 25, 2010.

Between last July and the end of December, drivers stopped for texting while driving were given a warning and information about the new law. Since the new year, it’s been a fineable offense.

The first offense is a $25 fine, and any subsequent offenses are $50, said Warren County attorney Amy Milliken, who is also a prosecutor for traffic offenses.

“People think it’s okay to text at a stoplight or stop sign, but it’s still illegal,” said Monica Woods, spokesperson for Bowling Green police. “You can’t text while operating a vehicle. You have to pull over in a safe place.” 

Anyone under the age of 18 is also prohibited from talking on a cell phone unless there’s an emergency, Woods said.

“There are so many distractions in life, and these thoughts don’t leave peoples’ minds when they’re driving,” she said. “To add one more distraction can be as deadly as drunk driving.”

Sgt. John Bailey of the campus police said the new law doesn’t just include cell phones, but any type of communication device, which can include laptops or iPads.

“People don’t just text when they’re driving, though it is the most common occurrence,” he said. “Lots of people end up browsing the web, checking e-mails, using their iPods — especially on the highways. People get bored.”

Bailey said campus police patrol campus and the surrounding area all year, but because students have been on break, very few texting incidents have occurred.

However, he said he expects an influx of citations once students return just to raise awareness before the number of citations dies down.

“With teenagers, it doesn’t stop till word of mouth gets around,” Bailey said.

Campus police records show one occurrence of someone found texting while driving. The individual pulled over was not a WKU student and was also found to be intoxicated.

“No message is worth endangering your life or someone else’s,” Woods said. “If it were, you’d actually call, not just text.”