HARTFORD — The Connecticut Police Chiefs Association supports Rep. David Scribner’s proposal to prohibit text messaging while driving, one of its members said today.
West Hartford Police Chief James Strillacci visited the Capitol to testify before the legislature’s Transportation Committee in favor of S.B. 427, an Act Concerning the Use of Hand-Held Mobile Telephones and Mobile Electronic Devices by Motor Vehicle Operators.
The proposal adds a ban against text messaging while driving to the state’s existing law prohibiting drivers from talking on a cellular phone while operating a motor vehicle. (Click for audio.)
Strillacci, like Scribner and several other legislators, expressed concern about a growing number of motor vehicle accidents attributable to drivers paying more attention to their cell phones than traffic.
“Texting not only takes your mind off the road, but your hand off the wheel,” he said.
Scribner’s proposal, crafted through ideas culled from other committee members and Gov. M. Jodi Rell, would increase the fine for violating the state’s cell phone law. The “freebie” status for first-time offenders, as Strillacci called it, would end; a first-timer would have to pay a $100 fine.
What’s more, the proposal calls for a $150 fine for a second offense, and a $200 fine for a three-time offender. A $500 fine could be imposed in cases of bodily injury—an idea from Rell.
Unique to Scribner’s plan, however, is a concept that would see cities and towns get 25 percent of the fine to help fund their efforts to enforce the state’s cell phone law.
“There’s little doubt about the impact cellular phones have had on our lives. They’ve given us the type of freedom and flexibility that, just a decade ago, we didn’t know would be possible,” Scribner said. “But we’ve got to draw the line somewhere—the thought of someone conducting a business meeting in rush hour traffic with one hand on the wheel and the other on the phone just makes me shudder.”
The hearing produced nearly unanimous support from committee members and those who testified.
Transportation Chairman Tony Guerrera credited Scribner for his leadership and focus on the issue.
Last October, Scribner was named Legislator of the Year by the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association headed by Strillacci for his continued work on legislation to improve public safety.