Keep you hands off your phone when behind the wheel. That’s the message some lawmakers are trying to send the public this session.
The House Judiciary committee is working on a bill to strengthen the current distracted driving law.
“Try to make this an efficient traffic stop to determine the violation that there’s not going to be a bunch of work afterwards,” said Rep. Martin LaLonde.
From what they’ve heard and seen, the law is not enough.
“Public safety folks say this is the toughest issue they are dealing with for highway safety,” Rep. LaLonde said.
Initially, the bill gave police the right to see a phone log of messages during a traffic stop. The concept faced opposition out of the gate, as people didn’t like the idea of a warrantless search of private information. LaLonde says this was a misconception, and the police wouldn’t have confiscated the phone for a misdemeanor offense.
“There’s no need for a quick means of access to the information,” said Executive Director of Vermont’s American Civil Liberties Union Allen Gilbert, who opposed the concept. “Police could always get a warrant and they can get the information that way.”
Regardless, a pending Supreme Court case over what’s called “implied consent” may change federal law, so that portion of the bill has been taken out.
The bill would put points on your license for repeat offenders.
“After a second or subsequent violation, there will be two points that will be assessed,” Rep. LaLonde said.
And it gives distracted driving enforcement more resources.
“A DUI and distracted driving enforcement fund. It’s in recognition that this is an equivalent danger for public safety on our highways,” Rep. LaLonde said.