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Kansas texting, seat belt law passes

Today the Kansas Senate debated and passed Senate Substitute for House Bill 2437.

This bill creates a “primary” seat belt law, meaning that a law enforcement officer can stop a car when the officer believes someone in the car may not be wearing a seat belt. Currently, the car must have been stopped for other reasons before the officer could cite occupants for not wearing seat belts. The bill would send about $11 million federal dollars to Kansas; $1 million earmarked for transportation safety, but the rest could be shifted into the state general fund. Governor Mark Parkinson has identified this money as being used to close the state’s general fund budget gap.

Senator Tim Huelskamp, a Republican from Fowler, objected to the bill because it’s a federal mandate that interferes with our local state control. The federal government has taken our tax money, he said, and is using it to coax our state into passing the primary seat belt law. Huelskamp’s actual language was stronger, using the term “outright bribery,” and noting with displeasure that the governor was acceding to this action.

Senator Davie Haley, a Democrat from Kansas City, along with Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau, Democrat from Wichita, expressed concerns that the seat belt law and the texting laws could be used as pretexts for stopping cars when the real aim of the officer is to perform a stop or search that couldn’t have been performed otherwise. “Driving while black” is the term both senators used, perhaps alluding to studies that have shown that minority drivers are stopped more often for minor traffic violations than non-minority drivers.

The bill also bans text messaging or electronic mail while driving. During the debate Senator Chris Steineger, a Democrat from Kansas City, gave Kansans a defense if they’re ticketed for texting while driving: The bill doesn’t prohibit using a phone for making telephone calls while driving. In fact, the bill contains language providing an exception “if the person reads, selects or enters a telephone number or name in a handheld wireless communication device for the purpose of making or receiving a phone call.”

Steineger wondered how a law enforcement officer could tell, just by looking, if a person is dialing a telephone number or entering a text message. He couldn’t get a specific answer from Senator Dwayne Umbarger, who was carrying the bill.

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6 Comments

  1. Ann H. March 12, 2010

    Are we now going to get pulled over and ticketed if a police officer sees us texting at a red light? I don’t text while actually driving, but do text at red lights. If texting at red lights or while stopped in traffic in included in this law, this is outrageous government nanny statism, all in the name of giving more tickets to generate revenue because politicians cannot control or cut their spending.

  2. Dismal Scientist March 12, 2010

    Amen Ann H! This is a revenue enhancing scheme. The government does not care about public safety, all they care about is getting your money! Riddle me this: who has the most vested (financial) interest in you being a safe driver? The government or your auto insurance company? Answer: your auto insurance company! That is why State Farm etc. should be licensing drivers instead of the DMV. All roads should be privatized. Road “owners” would dictate what safety rules should be followed. Technology has rendered the government provision of roads useless. GPS tracking can be used by “road owners” to determine who to charge for using their roads and sending you a monthly bill for its use.

  3. KipSchroeder March 18, 2010

    Personally, I appreciate Senator Huelskamp’s objection to the proposed bill. Based on the direction of our most recent and current Federal leaders we should be doing as much as possible to reduce our dependance on the Federal government. It is time to get our fiscal house in order. I believe the following Biblical proverb states it even more succinctly:

    Proverbs 22:7 The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

  4. wes March 21, 2010

    This texting law is pointless. There is no possible way for an officer to tell if someone is texting or dialing a number and if pulled over the officer has no right what so ever to take your phone without permission. So just say NO.

  5. Anonymous May 12, 2010

    It is stupid to give agressive, pushy, inner troubled policemen and police women an excuse to openly harass all people even tho they are doing nothing wrong.
    We are already treated like insects by the police. Hitler probably instigated reins of terror with similar invasions of human rights’
    We have a constitutional right to not be stopped for whims of sicko cops. Now that is being thrown out the window.

  6. Steve Lacy May 16, 2010

    This is just another violation of our right to be free from unreasonable search. The law is nothing more than big brother having once again lost sight of what the residents of the state want. Big Brother again telling the people what “they” think is best for you, not us telling “them” what is best the state. This is another of their quick fixes for poor managment of the tax payers money. Maybe if all the voters tell “them” come election time what we want or need, maybe the next ones will do a better job of listening to the voters regarding issues what we need or want. I don’t mean to sound like fire them all, just the majority that don’t listen to the voters.

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