Lawmakers turn to other transportation issuesST. PAUL — Motorists would be prohibited from sending text messages while driving and Minnesota’s school bus laws may be strengthened as lawmakers look for ways to make traveling the state’s roads safer.
By: Scott Wente, The Republican Eagle
ST. PAUL — Motorists would be prohibited from sending text messages while driving and Minnesota’s school bus laws may be strengthened as lawmakers look for ways to make traveling the state’s roads safer.
Now that legislators have put a $6.6 billion transportation spending plan into law, they have shifted their attention from highway funding to other transportation issues.
A bundle of transportation issues was left on the table at the end of the 2007 session. Lawmakers said they will make minor changes to that package and pass it this spring.
They also are developing a second bill that could include a handful of higher-profile provisions.
Measures aimed at improving road safety, such as new restrictions on young drivers and on seat belt use, are being considered. Traffic crashes and fatalities cost the state and other drivers millions, lawmakers said.
“Hopefully, some of the things we do in the bill will help lower that overall cost,” said Senate Transportation Chairman Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing.
One proposal being considered bans motorists from using mobile phones to send or receive electronic messages, including e-mails and text messages, while driving. A few exceptions would be allowed.
Murphy has pushed for years to make seat belt use a primary offense, meaning law enforcement officers could pull over drivers for failing to wear a seat belt. Now, they can be cited for not being buckled in only after they are stopped for another reason.
Murphy predicted that toughening the seat belt law would save 40 lives a year and prompt federal officials to send Minnesota $15 million more in transportation funds.