Driver ed instructor notes effect of new law

Fines of up to $500 may apply to drivers using phones

After+school+on+Aug.+25%2C+social+studies+teacher+Mr.+Eric+Bruns+directs+traffic+in+the+circle.+Drivers+who+use+a+handheld+device+while+on+the+road+now+could+face+fines+as+much+as+%24500.

Liam Eifert

After school on Aug. 25, social studies teacher Mr. Eric Bruns directs traffic in the circle. Drivers who use a handheld device while on the road now could face fines as much as $500.

Liam Eifert, Managing Editor

A law that went into effect on July 1 increases the fines for using a handheld phone while driving, yet that hasn’t kept some drivers from doing so. 

Science teacher and driver education teacher Mr. Dustin Land said, “As a driving instructor I’ve been observing other drivers and there’s still a lot of texting and driving.” Although it has somewhat changed in character, hands-free devices are often used by drivers to comply with the law. “It’s still distracted driving,” Land said. “There’s still a lot of it out there that I think the tickets could go up even higher if we really want to send a message.” 

The current law allows police to give out tickets that result in a fine of up to $500. 

Land did concede that the new laws had made a difference. He said, “There are definitely more and more people being more aware and doing their best to keep their phone out of the way and lessen the distraction.” 

Land underscored the danger of distracted driving. He said, “Distracted driving causes probably, above 80 percent of our wrecks right now. That’s what’s causing most of our wrecks, especially on 56th Street — people not paying attention, driving over the speed limit, and then they’ve got their phone out. And you get rear endings all the time on 56th Street because people aren’t paying attention, and they’re on their phone.” 

Once again Land said he was skeptical of hands-free phone devices. He said, “Now you see people video calling. They’ve got their hands-free device, but they’re video calling and they’re staring straight at the person they’re video calling. Did it help or did it make some things easier?”

Land admitted that hands-free devices do have positive uses for navigation. He said he prefers being able to see a map to listening to directions, but said that drivers must be careful only to glance at their phone and keep their attention for the road. For beginning drivers, Land said, “For the first one and a half to two years of driving, just keep (the phone) away. You don’t need it. Text somebody and let your mom know, ‘I’m leaving Kroger now’ and put it away until you get home.” 

As his advice to new young drivers, Land said, “Stay focused on the road, put your phone away, reduce distractions as much as possible. Stay safe out there. Everyone just wants to make it from point A to point B, so let’s do it safely.”

Editor’s note: Reporter Given James Lee also contributed to this story.