Commonwealth Journal

Local News

March 11, 2013

Texting laws proving tough to enforce

Somerset —  

Somerset Police have a message for distracted drivers: Whatever you do, don’t cause danger on the road.
Recent reports out of Kentucky suggest that texting while driving isn’t the easiest on-road offense to prosecute. However, that’s not a problem local law enforcement officials have had — mainly because it’s not one they try to prosecute that often.
“We have not issued a lot” of citations for texting while driving, noted Lt. Shannon Smith of the Somerset Police Department (SPD). “We have issued a lot of warnings.”
In 2010, Kentucky legislators passed a law making it effectively illegal to use the text message function of mobile phones while driving a vehicle. Interestingly, this applied only to texting — other functions, such as using the phone’s Internet capabilities or even other writing-based uses (like sending an email or updating a social media page) are still considered legal.
This has presented a problem for law enforcement around the state, according to a story from the Associated Press. The story cites a report from the Louisville Courier-Journal stating that 909 charges that have been brought across the state since the law passed, and that 25 percent of those charges were dismissed, with only a 63 percent conviction rate for prosecutors.
In Jefferson County, stated the AP report, nearly 40 percent of texting-while-driving charges were dismissed by judges.
Police officers say it's difficult to determine whether a driver is illegally texting or using their phone for any number of other legal activities, such as to browse the Internet, update social media or get directions. Prosecutors say even then, the charge is hard to prove, according to the AP.
Smith, however, said that he doesn’t “know of any prosecution issues we’ve had with it,” though that may have to do with the type of citations police are actually giving out.

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