KS law could get tougher against drivers using cell phones

Published: Feb. 17, 2020 at 4:38 PM CST
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Kansas lawmakers could add teeth to laws prohibiting cellphone use while driving.

A bill introduced in Topeka last week would expand what could get you pulled over and how much you could pay.

At Miller's Towing and Recovery in Wichita, drivers say when it comes to distracted driving, they've nearly seen it all. But the biggest culprit of that dangerous behavior, they say, is people looking down on their smartphones and not keeping their eyes on the road.

For workers like tow-truck drivers, the distracted drivers on the road make an already challenging, stressful job even more perilous.

"We've had several trucks in the last six months that have been hit by distracted drivers," says Miller's Towing and Recovery Owner Robert Miller. "Texting and driving, eating and driving, playing with the radios."

Millers' drivers wear bright clothing and display an array of flashing lights. Still, it's not always enough for other drivers who aren't paying attention.

"If you're distracted and texting and driving, you're not going to see those lights," Miller says.

Kansas lawmakers are now looking to increase the punishment for distracted driving when it comes to cellphone use. Miller says it's a step in the right direction.

Kansas already has a ban on texting while driving but a bill before lawmakers would prohibit drivers from even holding or supporting their cellphones with any part of their bodies expect for in cases of emergency.

With the proposed stricter enforcement of cellphone use for drivers, fines would still start at $60. That would increase to $120 for a second offense and $250 for each ticket following that.

Miller says the proposed change in the law won't end the problem of distracted driving, but he hopes it could at least get people to pause and think more before getting behind the wheel.

"I don't want anybody to make that call to my family that I've been hit by somebody not paying attention behind the wheel," he says.

Miller says he also wants to see more attention and enforcement brought to Kansas' slow-down-and-move-over lanes, where drivers have to move over for emergency vehicles and tow trucks if there's room, or to slow down if they can't get over.

On one call, Miller says, he was injured because a driver didn't give him room to work.