Texting while driving is banned in La.

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission reminds motorists that texting while driving is prohibited for all drivers in Louisiana, with a first offender subject to fines of up to $175.

In 2011, the Legislature strengthened the texting-while-driving ban to make it a primary offense, meaning that officers can stop and ticket a driver they observe texting. Previously, officers could issue a ticket for texting only if the driver was stopped for another offense or reason.

"Studies have shown that text messaging while behind the wheel is a major driver distraction that greatly increases the risk of being involved in a crash," said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. "We remind motorists that texting while driving is prohibited in Louisiana and can result in a stiff fine."

A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reported that texting while driving creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. Sending or receiving a text message takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent at 55 mph of driving the length of a football field, blind. The study also found that dialing a cell phone made the risk of a crash or near-crash event 2.8 times higher than non-distracted driving.

Louisiana law also prohibits people under 18 years of age from using any wireless device, such as a cell phone, while driving. Because of their limited experience behind the wheel, teenage drivers have higher crash rates than their older counterparts. Young people are among the most prolific users of text messaging.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2011 more than 3,000 people were killed and 387,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. In Louisiana, seven people were killed and 995 were injured in crashes involving the use of a cell phone or other electronic device in 2011.