Parnell signs bill banning texting while driving

Illustration by KTOO News Department

Governor Sean Parnell today (Thursday) signed into law a bill explicitly banning text messaging while driving.

Lawmakers thought they handled the issue four years ago. But last year some judges in the state ruled the law did not cover sending messages over smart phones. The legislature’s legal advisors said it would take at least three years to appeal the decisions. So, legislators decided to make the law more specific.

Haines Republican Bill Thomas was one of six sponsors of the bill.

“It was a public safety issue all along,” Thomas says. “You travel six seconds while you’re texting. It’s about the length of a football field. And you know you could drive off the road, hit another vehicle or something else. The idea is to concentrate on your driving and not texting.”

Anchorage Democrat Les Gara says texting is as dangerous as any other distraction to drivers, and some experts say it compares to driving drunk.

“Actually, while you’re typing a text, there is one study that says it’s more dangerous than drunk driving – your reaction time is slower,” says Gara. “We wanted to make certain that people knew that it was illegal, that it’s not okay even though people think it’s a social thing, it’s very dangerous. You can kill somebody doing this.”

The bill goes into effect Friday. Violators risk being charged with a misdemeanor.