John Harms
Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff (AP file) BILL WOLF

A Scottsbluff senator will have a chance to persuade his colleagues in the Legislature to ban texting while driving.

The Transportation and Telecommunications Committee advanced Sen. John Harms' bill (LB945) Tuesday to the full Legislature.

It would make texting while driving a primary offense, meaning you could be stopped if an officer saw you texting. Violators would face fines of $200 to $500 and could lose three points on a driver's license.

The committee sent it along with an amendment that would ensure the violation would include only texting written messages, not dialing a number.

Talking on a cell phone while driving would continue to be legal.

But if passed, it could be a step toward banning phone use while driving, said committee chairman Deb Fischer of Valentine.

"We all admit it's dangerous," she said of texting. But she does not support the ban as a primary offense.

Sen. John Wightman of Lexington has made LB945 his priority bill.

Twenty states, including the District of Columbia, have banned texting while driving for all drivers. The federal government has banned texting while driving in government vehicles, and in trucks and buses.

While some say the bill would be hard to enforce, Harms has said people in law enforcement have told him they can usually tell when someone is dialing a number versus sending a text message.

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Just having the law makes people aware of the decisions they are making, he says.

Reach JoAnne Young at 473-7228 or jyoung@journalstar.com.

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