Kansas lawmakers consider restricting cell phone use while driving

TOPEKA (KSNT) — If you’re one of the thousands of Americans who admits to using a cell phone while driving, it might be time to change your habit.

It’s been illegal for Kansas drivers to text while driving since 2011, but some lawmakers are working to stiffen the penalties and restrict cell phone usage while driving even more.

“You can only concentrate fully, 100 percent, on one thing at a time,” said Sgt. Colleen Stuart of the Topeka Police Department.

That’s why cell phones and texting are one of the leading causes of car accidents.

The Kansas State Highway Patrol says less than one percent of their stops were related to texting while driving during 2013 and 2014 and there’s a reason for that.

“As far as enforcing it, it can be very difficult, because for law enforcement, you really want to be sure. If somebody picks up their phone and they start tapping on it, and they’re just dialing a phone number they’re not in violation of the law,” said Lt. Joshua Kellerman of the Kansas Highway Patrol.

Often times it’s unclear whether a driver is making a call or texting.

So Lawmakers are now considering a bill to stiffen fines for repeat texting offenders.

The initial fine will still be $60, but that fine doubles for each subsequent offense within a five year period to a maximum of $240.

Another big change lawmakers are considering would make it illegal to talk on your phone while driving. Unless you have a Bluetooth device like that allows you to talk hands-free.

Local law enforcement says that change alone would simplify enforcement.

“Then it would be easier to note that someone is using their wireless device for something that is not provided for within the law,” said Sgt. Stuart.

The bill lawmakers are considering would also prohibit cell phone use while driving by anyone under the age of 18.

A house committee will hear testimony on the bill Tuesday morning.

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