Posted: Mar 27, 2013 9:17 PM by Victoria Fregoso - MTN News
What's become a habit to many might become illegal. Senate Bill 390 would prohibit drivers from texting but allow them to talk on their phone only if they're using a hands free device.
While this may be easy to enforce on city streets, it's a different story for Highway Patrol. "Well, I think a lot of it is the fact that you can't see what somebody is doing going 70 miles per hour in the other direction," said Captain Keith Edgell of the Montana Highway Patrol. "If they're texting while they're driving, it's harder to detect, unless you happen to come up behind it."
If the bill passes, Montana would join 10 other states that have banned using a handheld device while driving, and 39 other states that have declared it illegal to text and drive. "There's a big difference I think in what we assume is going on versus what we can prove in court," Captain Edgell said. "So I think that it will be a bit of a challenge to do it, but it's not saying that it can't be enforced."
The bill states drivers caught texting or not using a hands free device will have to pay $50 the first time they are caught, $100 for their second violation and $200 for the third time.
Usually, it's these texting and talking drivers that give themselves away. "A lot of them are called in as drunk drivers, because they display the same type of driving behaviors. They're either weaving back and forth or they run off the road a little bit. There is some reason that they're distracted."
While the Montana Legislature is focused on the distraction texting and talking on the phone poses to drivers, Captain Edgell also mentioned it's no different from putting on makeup or eating behind the wheel.
The Highway and Transportation Committee did not take immediate action on the bill during a hearing on Tuesday, March 26.