"Texting While Driving" Laws Go Into Effect

New laws aimed at making our roads safer hopes to drive home the dangerous mix of texting and driving.

This Friday, Iowa's new texting while driving law goes into effect.

It prohibits drivers from texting or using entertainment devices while driving.

Nebraska follows suit July 15th.

"I've gotten so good at it that I don't have to look at my keyboard sometimes."

Fifteen-year-old Elena Schluckebier knows the dangers of combining texting and movement first hand.

"Me and my friend we were texting and we should have been paying attention to what was around us and we went down a hill, went 20 feet in the air and crashed into the parking lot," she said. "My friend went unconscious and we were both carried off by ambulances, I almost broke my hip."

Elena's crash happened December 10, 2009 at a sledding hill. Elena and her friend were walking.

Monday, she was in a class with other teens working to get a drivers license.

The discussion turns to texting while driving.

"For you young drivers, its another distraction that can cause problems," Instructor Brian Fitzgerald said.

Matthew Popelka is also taking the class.

"With the constantly changing traffic conditions in today's world, you just got to have your eye on the road and really not be worrying about anything else." he said.

In this class of 29, more than half have ridden with someone who was texting while driving.

Safety experts say creating a law is past due.

"We're seeing it with cars and trucks and buses all over the country...yeah this is real it's home it's hurting real people right here on our streets and its something we need to be aware of," Bill Mulherin of the Omaha Chapter of the National Safety Council said.

Iowa and Nebraska are now joining 26 other states and the District of Colombia with laws banning texting while driving.

Iowa State Patrol Trooper Scott Miller says younger drivers are inexperienced and more easily distracted.

"Or most specifically their eyes are not on the road and not focused on driving, their head is into the conversation and not on what's going on around them," Trooper Miller said.

Take Elena Schluckebier's word as proof.

"They're putting their lives and my life in danger...I mean one text can wait. It's like one minute against your life."

In both Nebraska and Iowa texting while driving is considered a secondary offense, meaning officers need another cause to pull a driver over.

In Iowa, the first year will result in a warning, followed next year by a $100 fine.

In Nebraska, there is no grace period. First offense drivers face a $200 fine, second offense $300 and third offense a $500 fine.

Three points are also taken off a driver's license in Nebraska.


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