Greetings from the State Capitol!
The 2013-14 legislative session begins this year with contentious and deliberative legislative proposals, some of which include Medicaid expansion, prison reform, and tax policy.
Among these proposals is one that is just as important, if not more, for the reason that it saves lives in Nebraska. This is LB 807, the Nebraska Roadway Safety Act, a comprehensive piece of legislation that addresses four key safety components in our law.
In 2010, we passed LB 945 establishing penalties for texting and driving which carries a $200 fine for the first offense, $300 fine for the second offense and $500 fine for a third and subsequent offense. We implemented a three point penalty to the driving record upon conviction. These penalties have no lasting effect unless we can enforce the law as a primary offense in Nebraska.
The Act changes our secondary texting law to primary in Nebraska in order to ensure that a law enforcement officer can pull over a citizen who is observed to be in violation. This is imperative to saving lives!
Also, and due to current law and the passage of LB 415 in 2007, it is not legal for those in the Graduated Drivers License Program to drive between midnight and 6 a.m, to use an interactive wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle and to carry more than one passenger who is under the age of 19. Once again, this is only a secondary law.
When a novice driver is in violation of these provisions, a tragedy can never be reversed and the criminal penalties, which could be as high as manslaughter in an accident causing a fatality, can never be averted. These actions are final, and with it, are far reaching and severe consequences. As a result, the Nebraska Roadway Safety Act seeks to make these provisions susceptible to primary enforcement, so that a law enforcement officer can operate as a useful and preventative measure.
The legislation seeks to address our seat belt law, which is secondary and enforceable by a $25 fine. Children under the age of six are required to wear a child safety restraint system through primary enforcement. We seek to make it a primary offense for ALL persons who do not buckle up in Nebraska.
One seat belt worn, is one life saved. In the last ten years, 1,400 people died due to not wearing a seat belt. We can increase seat belt usage by 12-15% and potentially save lives in the future. We just need the proper tools to enforce the law!
The Act further stipulates that a school bus driver cannot use an interactive wireless communication device while driving on the road. It should be no surprise that children are particularly vulnerable in an accident. We want to prevent that accident from happening in the first place by prohibiting usage of a cell phone while operating a school bus.
I am a firm advocate in protecting our children and families with standard safety legislation. In the future, it is paramount that we require mandatory screenings for those with medical impairments while operating a motor vehicle on the road. Driving is a privilege, not a right and public safety takes precedence. I hope to see this as part of the agenda in the next legislative session.
The Nebraska Roadway Safety Act will save lives and prevent needless fatalities, impacting not only this generation, but many generations to come. No other legislation this year has the ability to make such a positive difference in the lives of the people we serve in Nebraska.