Safe Roads Now


Texting & driving, seat belt bills fail (again) to advance Legislature

Posted at 6:17 PM, Apr 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-03 19:17:24-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Safety advocates have asked for asked for years for laws that would allow police to pull drivers over for texting and driving or not wearing a seatbelt. They’ve gotten gotten shut down every time.

This year, they got the exact same response, as the bills died in the Transportation Committee.

The three bills that would make distracted driving and not wearing a seatbelt a primary offense will not advance in the legislature.

It's a decision that caught advocates a bit by surprise.

"I thought there were of great questions being asked by the committee, a lot of great information imparted upon the committee so I was actually fairly optimistic that we could move a bill this year,” says Eric Koeppe, president, Nebraska Safety Council.

It's not clear why the two distracted driving bills were voted down. Transportation Committee chair Curt Friesen told us last year he's against tightening the law until he sees evidence crashes decrease when new laws go into place.

Koeppe says he sees the numbers and the problem is getting worse.

"We see an increase in distracted driving crashes that is going up each year,” says Koeppe.

Tim Wooden's daughter Ashley is sadly one of the statistics. She was killed by a distracted driver in 2007.

He's disheartened by the continued inaction in Lincoln.

"I question the people that represent us to be honest,” says Wooden. “To me it's glaring and it's apparent but for some reason it's not getting put through."

Spike Eichault, who spoke against the bills at the committee hearing in March, told 3 News Now over the phone he's concerned the glow of a phone going off could get you pulled over, even if you're not touching your phone or even paying attention to it.

As far as seat belts go, he says not wearing one only affects that person.

But Koeppe doesn't buy that argument, especially for those in the back of the car.

"The backseat passenger becomes a projectile to everybody else in the car when they're not buckled in,” says Koeppe.

So what will it take to get the bills out of committee rooms and actually become law?

For seat belts, Koeppe says he saw the senators learning during the committee hearing. He thinks as education push could change their minds.

On the distracted driving front, he says the majority of Nebraskans tighter laws and the legislature needs to hear from them.

"So i think if we can get citizens involved and corporate citizens involved in Nebraska, I think we can make a big difference down in the legislature,” says Koeppe.

And at least one Nebraskan who has not spoke up at hearings in the past before says he's now considering testifying in Lincoln.

"it may be a part of what we have in store for us, I don't know,” says Wooden.