New state texting law takes effect July 1
Illegal to text while driving in Wyoming
by Wyoming Department of Transportation
June 30, 2010
Motorists who are texting while driving are now breaking the law. A new state law goes into effect Thursday (July 1, 2010) making it illegal for motorists to write, send or read text messages. Violators will face a $75 fine.
The state Legislature passed the law this past session as a way to reduce distracted driving crashes.
"Distracted driving has been shown to create problems while operating a motor vehicle," said Col. Jess Oyler, of the Highway Patrol. "Crashes often occur because of inattention. Texting causes a motorist to divert concentration away from driving, as looking at the keyboard to compose messages takes eyes off the road, and is a distraction that can too easily contribute to causing a crash."
The new law makes texting a primary offense, which means that law enforcement can pull over a vehicle if a driver is texting. It applies to any handheld electronic wireless device. Wyoming is one of 28 states to enact a texting while driving law.
Distracted driving can either be visual, when a driver takes their eyes off the road; manual, when a driver takes their hands off the wheel; and cognitive, when a driver is thinking about something else then driving, the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated. Texting involves all three types of distractions.
"The fact is the individual’s mind is engaged in something besides driving, making the distraction a potential hazard and allowing for a more serious incident to occur," Oyler said.
A second is all it takes to get into a crash. That means looking away from the road to focus attention on a cell phone is a crash waiting to happen. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that in 2008, 5,870 people died and 515,000 were injured because of distracted driving.
Patrol will notice a distracted driver by the way they’re driving. "If, for example, we observe a vehicle weaving, see an unsafe lane change, or notice particularly slow speeds, this will alert us to seek the cause for the questionable driving patterns," said Capt. Len DeClercq.
When a person is using their cell phone when they drive, they can have the reflexes and reaction times of someone who has a blood-alcohol content of .08, the U.S. Department of Transportation indicated.
"Driving requires concentration and when attention is shifted to text messaging, the possibility of serious consequences is significantly increased," DeClercq said.
If a driver has to use their cell phone, they should find a safe place to pull off the road whether they need to talk or text someone. Drivers should be aware that there are some municipalities like the City of Cheyenne that have also made it illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving, which is why drivers should play it safe and pull off the road in a safe location to use their phones.
For more information:
U.S. Department of Transportation - http://www.distraction.gov/stats-and-facts/
Governors Highway Safety Association - http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - http://www.nhtsa.gov/
Editor’s Note: Except in the cities of Cheyenne, Rock Springs and Green River, which have enacted full cell phone bans, it is still legal to talk on a cell phone while driving in Wyoming.