Making safety a passenger

Making safety a passenger

By Joe Duggan January 11, 2013 9:08 pm Comments

The Nebraska Legislature got the show on the road this week with bills that would put more muscle behind highway safety.

LB 10 by Omaha Sen. Bob Krist would raise seat belt violations to the level of a primary offense. LB 118 by Sen. John Harms of Scottsbluff would do the same for texting while driving.

Currently, police can ticket drivers for the offenses only if they pull them over for a primary traffic violation. So, forget to belt up then blow a red light while reading a text from your wife and you’ll pretty much score a trifecta for the arresting officer.  

Under the bills introduced this week, police won’t need another reason to write you up for no belts or no sense (that’s shorthand for driving while texting.)

Supporters of the two bills will undoubtely roll out the safety statistics when the proposals come up for public hearings. It’s hard to argue against using seat belts and keeping your hands on the wheel instead of the key pad of a smart phone.

But opposing the bills isn’t the same as advocating unsafe driving practices. After all, both practices are already illegal in Nebraska.

The question a lot of lawmakers have to be asking about their bills: “What will Ernie think?” In the past, Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers opposed making seat belts and texting primary offenses. The veteran senator, who is back after sitting out four years because of term limits, suggested doing so would provide cover for cops who practice racial profiling.

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