Nevada: Cell Phone Laws, Legislation Take Effect October 1st

As of Oct. 1, law officers in Nevada may stop and warn motorists who are texting or using handheld cell phones. The ticketing starts Jan. 1, 2012. Fines will be $50, then $100 and then $250.

Nevada banned handheld cell phone use and text messaging for all drivers. Enforcement is primary, meaning drivers can be stopped and cited for that reason alone. Nevada was the 34th state to ban texting while driving.

The measure, SB 140, has was approved by Gov. Brian Sandoval, who made it clear that he would support a statewide ban on text messaging while driving. The Assembly’s final vote came May 30 and the Senate signed off June 4.

Sen. Shirley Breeden was the bill’s author. Her texting bill of 2010 failed to get out of committee, but, undaunted, she added handheld cell phones to 2011 plan. “We’re going to go for the whole enchilada,” she said as the legislative year began.

The Senate watered down Breeden’s texting & talking ban on April 26, lowering fines to match the Assembly’s version in order to get a distracted driving bill through.

Current prohibitions:

2011 legislation:
SB 140: Would outlaw text messaging and using handheld cell phones while driving in Nevada. Would prevent cities and counties from creating similar laws. Original bill’s fines: $250 (first offense), then $500, then $1,000 plus license suspension of six months. Fines doubled in highway work zones. Warnings until Jan. 1, 2012. Amended and approved by the Senate Transportation Committee on March 17. Amendments approved by voice vote in Senate on April 22. Amended bill’s fines: $50/$100/$250. No license suspensions. Approved by the Senate in a 12-9 vote on April 26. OK’d by the Assembly in a 24-7 vote on May 30. The Senate’s final approval (a voice vote) came June 4 and the measure was sent to the governor. If signed, which is expected, the new Nevada distracted driving law kicks in July 1 with warnings issued until the new year. (Breeden)

AB 151: Would ban text messaging and use of handheld cell phones while driving in Nevada. Fines: $50 (first offense), $100 (second) and $250 (third). If a death or “substantial body harm” results from violation, prison term of 1-6 years with fines of $2,000-$5,000. Would end local traffic regulation of texting and cell phones. Warnings until Dec. 31, 2011. Amended (to add handheld cell phones to original bill’s texting ban) and approved by the Assembly Committee on Transportation in a 12-3 vote on March 29. Latest legislative action: Rereferred to Committee on Ways and Means on April 19. See SB 140, above. (Atkinson)

Senate Bill 76: Seeks to ban text messaging and use of handheld cell phones. Hands-free accessories OK for cell phones. GPS allowed. Also targets Internet use and any “non-verbal” communication. Dead as of April 16. (Public Safety Dept. via Senate Transporation Committee)

SB 145: Would prohibit drivers under the age of 18 from texting and using cell phones. Penalties to be determined by juvenile court, which would be directed to treat violations in school zones more seriously. Dead as of April 16. (Manendo)

AB 173: Would prohibit texting and the use of handheld cell phones by all Nevada drivers. If a death or “substantial body harm” results from violation, prison term of 1-6 years with fines of $2,000-$5,000. Dead as of April 16. (Munford)

Distracted driving notes:
Last year, Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, saw her no-texting bill die in committee. This year she succeeded in getting a measure through the legislative — as the new chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. The bill was sent to the governor June 4. SB 140 would prohibit drivers from both text messaging and use of handheld cell phones.

“We’re going to go for the whole enchilada in this thing,” Breeden said of the addition of cell phones to the 2011 legislation.