Distracted drivers in Rhode Island may face tougher consequences if the House passes a bill that increases texting-while-driving fines. Introduced by President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed in response to complaints about distracted driving, the bill was approved by the Senate just last week.
Rhode Island has banned texting while driving since 2009. Under the state’s current distracted driving law, drivers caught texting while driving face a fine of $85 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, and $125 for a third or subsequent offense. The proposed bill increases texting-while-driving fines to $100 for a first offense, $150 for a second offense, and $250 for a third or subsequent offense.
The bill also raises fines for drivers under the age of 18 who use a cell phone while driving. Drivers under the age of 18 have been banned from all cell phone use while driving since 2006, and with good reason. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 21% of distracted drivers between the ages of 15-19 who are involved in fatal traffic crashes are distracted by their cell phones. The proposed bill increases minors’ distracted driving fines from $50 to $100 for a first offense, $50 to $150 for a second offense, and $100 to $250 for a third or subsequent offense.
Senate President Paiva Weed hopes that the legislation, if passed by the House and signed into law, will decrease distracted driving, improve road safety, and remind novice and young drivers that driving while distracted, especially by a cell phone, is a dangerous driving behavior with serious consequences.