Nebraska's push to stop texting and driving

Posted at 10:36 PM, Feb 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-27 19:48:44-05

We see it all the time, a driver who is swerving out of their lane because they are on their cell phone. The CDC reports that distracted driving kills eight people and injures approximately 1,100 every day.

In 2015 Nebraska had over 4,400 crashes involving a distracted driver, 12 of those were deadly.

Lawmakers are pushing to making using your phone while driving a primary offense in Nebraska, meaning this will allow law enforcement to pull a driver over for using their phone and give them a ticket.  Current Nebraska law allows police to ticket a driver for distracted driving only if they are stopped for another violation.

Tyler Perrotto is a survivor of a texting and driving crash, “I look up, I see a truck coming, and I get hit.”

His car was totaled but luckily he and his passenger were able to walk away.

“Afterwards, a lot of pain, my passenger was admitted to the ER that night and he thankfully was ok, I am too I just have some sore muscles.”

Senator Rick Kolowski is trying to change the law and make using a handheld wireless device while driving a primary offense.

“We are trying to make our roads safer, I think we are behind the curve right now and it is a dangerous situation,” said Kolowski.

Texting and driving is currently a primary offense for all drivers in 41 other states.

Last year the same bill failed to pass in the legislature, but Kolowski said he feels different about this year. “I hope it will be looked at as a good thing, a right thing, a correct thing to do and not have a big brother kind of attitude, it is a safety issue.”

Omaha Police Sergeant Jason Menning said one of the problems police will have enforcing the primary offense is proving a driver was distracted. “Unless someone is going to tell me that they were using their phone, it is going to be tougher for me to prove.”

But he said that just having it be a primary offense would bring more awareness to what people are doing while driving.

“My big thing is if we had a primary, we would just educate people,” Menning added.

Senator Kolowski's bill will have a hearing before the transportation and telecommunications committee on February 27th. If it gets the five votes needed to get to the floor, the bill would go through three readings with possible amendments added. If the senate approves with majority vote, the bill goes to Governor Ricketts, who says he is in support of the bill.

“I am really happy with how many people have said this is long overdue and how do we not have this,” said Kolowski.

A Texas A&M study found texting bans reduced visible texting while driving by about 60%. KMTV will follow LB471 through the legislature and will bring you updates.