House sends texting while driving bill to Rell

bill forbidding texting while driving is headed for Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s signature.

The measure also would crack down on talking on a cell phone while driving without using a hand-free device. It would end the policy of giving first-time violators a waiver if they buy a hands-free device, and instead imposes a $100 fine. It also increases fines for subsequent violations.

Justifying the hikes, proponents say the law has been around for five years and people should know better than to use their phones behind the wheel.

The legislature’s budget office said in 2008, 14,500 drivers received a warning for using their phone while driving and 22,500 received a fine.

Rell introduced a similar bill this session, saying 19 states prohibit text messaging and six states prohibit using hand-held cell phones while driving. AAA supports laws banning drivers from texting, but a recent study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found no reduction in crashes in states with laws that ban hand-held cell phone use.