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KY Puts Brakes on Texting While Driving

July 16, 2010

FRANKFORT, Ky. - Kentucky is cracking down on distracted driving. As of Thursday, it's illegal to text while driving. State highway officials hope that outlawing the practice will deter motorists from thumbing their cell phones and help them keep their eyes focused on the road. The texting ban also outlaws cell phone use altogether for 16 and 17-year old drivers.

Chuck Geveden, executive director of the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, says the definition of texting is broader than motorists might think.

"It means reading and sending e-mails on your hands-free device. It also means getting on the Internet with your cell phone, or your Blackberry, or your iPhone. You can't do that either. That's considered as part of the definition of texting."

If motorists are caught, police will issue warnings from now until the first of the year, then fines shift into gear. Beginning January 1, motorists caught texting behind the wheel of a moving car face a $25 fine and court costs; subsequent offenses are subject to a $50 fine.

The Kentucky Office of Highway Safety says that in 2009, 45 percent of all automobile accidents in Kentucky were due to distracted driving, with cell phone use being the most common practice cited in those crashes. Geveden says the numbers prove that a texting while driving ban is long overdue.

"Distracted driving is deadly driving, whether it be cell phone use or something else; we see people reading a book while they're going down the road; we see people eating, putting on makeup. Distracted driving is deadly driving, but cell phone use is probably the leading cause."

Disobeying the texting-while-driving law in Kentucky is a primary offense, which means a driver can be pulled over if suspected of using a device.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY