The Kentucky House Transportation committee has approved a bill that would outlaw handheld cell phone calls in work zones while workers are present and school zones when lights are flashing. The bill, sponsored by Lebanon Democrat Rep. Terry Mills, would not apply to those making calls with a hands-free device under an amendment added Tuesday.
Also, House Bill 33 increases fines for those texting while driving. The penalty for a first offense would increase from $25 to $50, with each subsequent offense carrying a $100 fine, up from $50. The bill now advances to the full Kentucky House.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has announced new tools aimed at enforcing the state's "no texting" law.
A 2010 law made texting while driving punishable by a fine. Speaking in Louisville Wednesday, Beshear said that hasn't been enough of a deterrent. Starting in a few months, the Transportation Cabinet will take three points off the licenses of drivers caught while texting behind the wheel.
The new three-point texting penalty was announced as transportation leaders and emergency responders gathered for an annual meeting. The state can suspend the licenses of drives who incur 12 penalty points within a two-year period.
For drivers under 18, the threshold is seven points.
According to the Governor's office, more than 5,300 crashes in Kentucky last year were caused by driver distraction.