Drivers would be banned from tweeting, posting on Instagram or using other social networks under a bill approved Wednesday by the state Senate Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee.
The measure, Senate Bill 147, cleared the panel without objection.
State Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, sponsor of the proposal, spelled out details of his bill, fielded a few questions and watched the plan breeze through the panel without any public comments for or against it.
The legislation now faces a vote in the full Senate.
State law already makes it illegal for drivers to use cellphones and other devices for text messaging.
But there are gaps in the law, Erdey said.
He said officers at the city of Walker Police Department have told him they stopped drivers thought to be texting and were told they were actually using Facebook or Instagram.
He said Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are not covered in the current anti-texting while driving law.
“Those sorts of things are what we are addressing in this bill,” Erdey said.
“We are trying to close the loophole with this particular legislation.”
The Republican said text messaging diverts a driver’s attention for an average of 4.6 seconds.
That means a motorist traveling at 55 miles per hour is “driving the length of an entire football field basically blind.”
“In social networking, they are actually taking more time away from driving as opposed to a quick text,” Erdey said.
“It is all about taking your eyes off the road.”
He said studies show those who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident.
Facebook is a social media website where users can personalize individual pages.
Twitter is another form of social media used to post personal messages.
Instagram allows users to post photos.
The proposed law applies to wireless communication devices.
Erdey’s bill would make it illegal for those using such a device “to access, read or post to a social networking site.”
The measure says that means “using a wireless telecommunications device to view any Web-based service that allows individuals to construct a profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and communicate with other members of the site.”
Committee Chairman Robert Adley, R-Benton, said he saw an unforgettable video of a police vehicle following a driver who was suspected of texting.
Before the driver could be pulled over, Adley said, the car veered into the path of an 18-wheeler.
“The car just disintegrated,” he said.
Erdey said a deputy sheriff told him he knew of three fatalities where the driver was texting.
Adley said his committee is on an accelerated schedule for reviewing bills since the session ends June 6.
He said he plans to address all the state Senate bills in his committee by next week.