Tougher penalties for texting at the wheel?

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Forty-one states, including Connecticut, now have laws against texting while driving. Should penalties for texting and driving be tougher?

The legislature increased the fines for texting while driving last year. It’s now $150 for the first offense, $300 for the second offense, and $500 for the third and subsequent offenses. But, despite that there are several proposals before the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee to make the penalties even tougher. 

Representative Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, thinks the new fines are not enough and that license suspensions should be considered.  

“Like the drunk driving laws, we’d have a graduated fine and then a penalty system,” said Ziobron. “I think the Transportation Committee should be looking at doing something similar for texting.”

Recent research has compared texting while driving to the dangers of drunk driving.  

“There’s a lot of chronic use on the highways and I don’t think people really recognize how dangerous, a lot like driving while intoxicated, it really is,” said Ziobron.

But the Chairman of the Transportation Committee says law enforcement continues to say enforcement is difficult and that it may take a change in auto technology.  

“Unless technology kicks in, like the auto industry, that says once you put the car in drive it automatically cuts the cellphone out; therefore, you have to go right to your bluetooth and you can’t even text,” said Transporation Committee Co-Chairman Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill.

Research has indicated that drivers younger than age 20 comprise the largest portion of drivers distracted at the time of a crash, but distracted driving occurs in all age groups.

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