Texting drivers continue to frustrate Nebraska advocates

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Five years after lawmakers approved a texting-while-driving ban, advocates say Nebraska’s roads are still populated with motorists who glance down at their phones while behind the wheel.

Law enforcement, lawmakers and highway safety officials still consider it a problem in Nebraska, according to the Lincoln Journal Star (http://bit.ly/1N1g2Tk ).

Nebraska’s ban doesn’t allow authorities to pull drivers over for texting alone, because the offense is considered secondary. Officers can only stop vehicles for primary offenses, such as speeding or running a traffic light.

Sen. Merv Riepe of Ralston introduced a bill this year to ban all handheld use of wireless electronic devices while driving and would make doing so a primary offense. The bill remains in the Transportation Committee. Riepe says he hopes it will go before the entire Legislature.

Nebraska is one of five states that do not consider texting while driving a primary offense.

Between 2010 and 2014, cellphone distractions factored into three fatal crashes and 278 injury accidents in Nebraska. Nearly 600 people have been convicted of texting while driving as a secondary offense, under a 2010 law sponsored by former state Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff.

Opponents said making the offense a primary one would further infringe on drivers’ rights. Others say such a law could be selectively enforced by police and used as a means to profile drivers.

Harms disagrees.

“This is about safety whatever race you are,” he said. “It’s about saving people’s lives.”

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