(Sen. Elizabeth Halseth) – On Thursday, Senate Bill 140 passed out of the Transportation Committee on a 5-2 vote. Sen. Shirley Breeden’s (D-Las Vegas) well-intentioned bill, which was first heard in committee on February 22, 2011, would prohibit the use of cellular telephones and other handheld wireless communication devices while operating a motor vehicle.
Testimony in support of this bill also revealed it would prohibit the use of any GPS or similar device unless it was voice-activated.
As it is already unlawful to engage in various “distracted driving” activities, such as applying make-up while operating a motor vehicle, or operating a motor vehicle in any reckless or unsafe manner, Sen. Dean Rhoads (R-Tuscarora) and I voted against the bill.
On the other hand, Sen. Mike Schneider (D-Las Vegas) commented that the proposed law would give “back up” to parents who tell their children not to text and drive – as if it’s government’s job to supplement the parenting of children.
SB 140 is what is known as “camel’s nose” legislation. Once we give the government the power to prohibit talking on the phone while behind the wheel, how long before drinking a beverage while driving is specifically prohibited? At that point, we’ll be just a short step away from banning drive-up windows at fast-food restaurants. And taken to its logical conclusion, eventually it will be illegal to drive while eating a hamburger, changing the radio station or talking to the children in the back seat.
Texting while driving is, indeed, a dangerous practice, as can be cell phone usage. But the answer is better education and greater public awareness, not another unenforceable law for our already over-burdened police officers whose time would be better spent tracking down murderers and armed robbers.
(Sen. Halseth is a Republican representing District 9 in Clark County)