Lawmakers use simulator to show dangers of distracted driving - - The News for South Mississippi

Lawmakers use simulator to show dangers of distracted driving

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Mississippi is one of only nine states without a texting-while-driving ban. The legislation hits road blocks every year in the state house.

WLBT's Courtney Ann Jackson talked to several different lawmakers about this issue on Tuesday. 
They've all seen the swerving of cars and phones lighting up as drivers cruise down the interstate. Still, it sounds like a ban for this year, is going to depend on your age.

Lawmakers took a practice course using a simulator to demostrate the dangers of texting while driving.

"You can barely stay on the road, on your side of the road."

Representative Gary Chism wasn't successful with balancing texting and driving at the simulator. But even if his bill becomes law it would only ban the practice for those 18 and under.

"Hopefully this will be the first step to move it up to a little older to finally get everybody."

A house committee dropped the proposed fine from 500 to 250 dollars. After the practice course lawmakers admit texting behind the wheel is dangerous whether it's a teen or adult.

Rep. Tom Miles said, "I consider myself a pretty good driver and I thought I could multi-task pretty good. But it didn't take very long before I ran into the guard rail."

Only one of several texting bills survived the first deadline in the Senate. It would add texting to the current careless driving law. 

"I think every time you get stopped it serves as a reminder and it scares you," said Senator Sally Doty.

The fine has now been upped from 50 to 100 dollars.

Rep. Robert Johnson said, "We sort of worked on it a little bit. We changed the fine. We made it a civil penalty. We're trying to get a bill that makes it easier to pass. Easier to get through the house."

With other states banning the balancing act, lawmakers weighed in on what they think have been road blocks to texting bills in the past.

"Mississippi holds onto individual freedoms. And this is just big government telling you one more time that you need to do something. And we just don't like to be told that we need to do something," said Chism.

Doty said, "Some people feel hypocritical. I do. I have done it before. I have done the texting and driving. But I've put my phone down and I want to challenge everyone else to do that as well."

MDOT safety experts say it takes an average of 4.6 seconds to read a text message. If you're driving 55 miles per hour, you'll drive the length of a football field in that time. The equivalent is like driving that distance blind.

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