NEWS: Legislature Reinstates Texting While Driving Ban

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CONTACT: Toby Smith
Legislative Aide


April 15, 2012


Bi-partisan Bill Will Prevent Deadly Practice


Today, the Legislature passed bi-partisan legislation led by Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) and Representative Bill Thomas (R-Haines) to put Alaska’s strong anti-texting law back on the books. Last year, a number of judges questioned whether the existing law covers texting while driving.


“The Legislature intended to ban dangerous conduct like texting while driving. Rather than wait for appeals, we’re sending a clear message to the public, now, that texting, and typing on personal and computer devices can cause death and serious injury. In an average text you drive the length of a football field before paying attention to driving. We don’t want cars to be moving weapons,” said Rep. Gara.


“This is a public safety issue. When people type or text while they’re driving, they are endangering people’s lives. That’s not acceptable,” said Rep. Thomas, the bill’s other prime sponsor.


The Department of Law has said for first time violators, the usual sentence has been a fine or community service, but no jail time. That is consistent with prosecutions before some courts called the law into question last year.


“Prior reports threatening that the bill will result in jail time for someone with a clean record may sound great but are inaccurate and only scare people,” said Rep. Gara who believes texting while driving is dangerous but should not result in jail for first-offenders who do not hurt anyone.


Gara and Thomas introduced the bill so the public would not have a mixed message while courts are split on this issue. Last year a tragic case resulted in death while a driver was texting.


Representatives Peggy Wilson (R-Wrangell), Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage), Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) and the late Carl Gatto (R-Palmer) were all co-prime sponsors on the bi-partisan legislation.