Sheriff says MS texting and driving ban isn't working

Sheriff says MS texting and driving ban isn't working

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - A local law enforcement official believes Mississippi's texting and driving law isn't working.The law, passed last year, bans drivers from writing, sending or reading text messages, emails or social media messages, but out of our three coastal sheriff departments, just a few tickets for texting and driving have been written.

"Nobody's writing these tickets," said Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell. "Or if they are, there are not very many."

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office has never written a ticket for texting and driving. Hancock County has given out one ticket. However, Harrison County has given out 25.

"One of the challenges that we've had as law enforcement is trying to enforce the law," said Ezell. "And to actually be able to stop someone who is texting and driving, it's been a challenge."

Ezell said unless an officer sees a driver actually texting while driving, proving it is not easy.

Harrison County Sheriff Troy Peterson had this to say about the law:

"Based on the new law, the "burden of proof" falls on enforcement to prove. For example, if we were to ask a driver after stopping them for texting and driving to see their phone and they told us no, the officer would only have two choices to further the case. Either secure the driver and phone for a search warrant to collect the evidence needed or get a court order to retrieve that persons texting information for that particular time and date. Both choices would cost taxpayers. An abundance of law enforcement time and taxpayer money for records retrieval. This all goes back to burden of proof."

"I was at the red light at Debuys (Road) and a lady was texting and while I was stopped at the red-light she ran straight into my car," said Jeanetta Glasper.

"What would be a good thing is for law enforcement to meet with some of the key folks that come up with this," said Ezell. "We've got to be able to figure out something as to how we can do this better."

But just because the law is hard to prove, don't think you can get away with violating it. Ezell said a driver who is tapping away on their phone is usually swerving all over the lanes or showing other signs of careless driving, which warrants a ticket.

"You're losing lives and young folks are the baddest," said Shirley Cummings. "They already are inexperienced drivers and then they are texting."

The fine for texting and driving will go from $25 to $100 beginning July 1.

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