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Minutes for SB144 - Committee on Transportation

Short Title

Prohibiting the use of a wireless communication device in a school zone or a road construction zone.

Minutes Content for Wed, Feb 8, 2017

Chairperson Petersen opened the hearing on this bill.

Mr. Wells gave an overview of the bill noting it is the same topic as the above bill.  This bill prohibits the use of wireless communication devices in school zones and road construction zones.  This bill contains the same definitions, and exceptions are the same.  However, a hands-free device is defined as speakerphone capability or a telephone attachment or other piece of equipment, regardless of whether permanently installed in the motor vehicle, that allows use of the wireless communication device without use of either of the operator's hands.   Section 2 lists under the uniform fine schedule a fine of $60.00.  Mr. Wells stood for questions.

Senator Hardy asked if the previous bill passed, would this bill be needed?  Mr. Wells indicated it would not be needed.  This bill states a violation of this particular section is not a moving violation. There is a double fine for a moving violation, for example, in a construction zone. 

Senator Hawk asked if you could operate hands-free with this bill.  Mr. Wells said yes, truly hands-free.  Senator Hawk asked if that would include under your chin.  Mr. Wells said, no, you would still be using your hands.  The definition of hands-free here would prohibit having the phone on your lap or not quite up to your ear.  It is more clearly defined.

Senator Schmidt gave proponent testimony (Attachment 3) noting there is no more dangerous place for unexpectedly happenings than in a school zone when children are going to school, excited, and not paying attention.  We slow down in those zones to pay attention.  Cell phone use is very distracting.  We already prohibit texting, and school zones and construction zones are just another level of awareness and responsibility.  The fine is $60.00, same as texting, and this is a non-moving violation. Therefore, the fine would not be doubled as in a construction zone and it would not be reflected on insurance. 

Senator Pettey gave you the statistics.  Ed Klumpp submitted written testimony and did offer a possible amendment to the bill, and whatever the committee wishes is fine.  This is an important bill.  Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, and Texas already have such a bill.  In Texas, in the school zones, signs warn motorists to slow down and not use cell phones.  This bill is the baby step toward Senator Pettey's bill. 

Chairperson Petersen noted that some contractors are putting up signs on their project sites that say no cell phone usage in the construction zone for the safety of the workers. 

Senator Hawk asked if traveling on I-70 doing hands-free, and if in the middle of the  construction zone, is that legal?  Senator Schmidt replied yes.

Senator Tyson asked if go hands-free on the phone, what about people drinking coffee or other distractions?  Senator Schmidt said yes there are other reasons for inattentive driving--putting on makeup, looking for notes, eating a hamburger--all are distracting, but we are just addressing hands-free wireless devices. 

Senator Skubal asked in construction zones, is it the state law that doubles the fine?  Senator Schmidt said only for a moving violation.  Senator Skubal suggested maybe we need to look at the amount of the fine.  The fine of $60.000 is not that much of a deterrent.  How about doubling the fines?  We have blinking lights to make people more aware when entering a school zone.  When kids get out of school, they are oblivious to what is going on, and like a construction zone, the fine should be higher. Senator Schmidt said if it were changed to a moving violation in a construction zone, the fine would double.  However, there were discussions on the Senate Floor on seat belt use, which has a small fine.  If the legislation gets enacted, review how it is rolled out, and the points are well taken.

Senator LaTurner asked if earphones with a microphone would be included, and she answered that it is hands-free so would not be subject to violation.  You can dial before entering the school or construction zone, but cannot hold the device in your hands. 

Senator Pettey added that distracted driving, according to staff, is the number one issue for all accidents, but texting and cell phone usage is higher because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention for the driver.  This is different than putting on makeup, eating, etc. while driving.  

Senator Hawk asked about questioning Siri using your watch.  If you hit the single button for Siri, you still touched your phone.  Senator Schmidt said she would have to ask the Revisor.

Senator LaTurner asked if this the first step to a more robust bill.  Senator Schmidt said motorists need to be aware of kids in school zones and of workers in construction zones that are close to your car.  Something could happen in a split second.  Senator Schmidt said she has no plan for a 10-step process. 

Chairperson Petersen asked about the court cost.  It could be $60 plus $166 in court costs.  Senator Schmidt said those are not addressed.  He also asked if she had considered a delayed roll out.  She said she has not considered that, but  would welcome an amendment.  Chairperson Petersen said this has been done with other issues several times.  

Senator Goddard asked when an emergency vehicle is parked along the road with its lights flashing, and it is hit by a motorist, would this fall into this category?  Senator Schmidt said we already have laws that say you have to get over, and if stopped it carries a fine. 

Written proponent testimony (Attachment 4) was provided by Ed Klumpp, representing the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, Kansas Sheriffs Association, and Kansas Peace Officers Association.  The testimony proposed an amendment to the bill.

Chairperson Petersen said he is considering asking Jill Shelley from Research to do a presentation on what other states have done with use of a wireless communication device.

The hearing on this bill was closed.