Mississippi Distracted Driving Laws
- Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for bus drivers (Primary Law).
- Ban on texting for bus drivers (Primary Law).
- Ban on texting for novice drivers (Primary Law).
- Preemption Law prohibits localities from enacting distracted driving bans.
Mississippi’s Texting While Driving Stand
In 2012, three members of the Mississippi legislature introduced senate bills to prohibit texting; as well as, handheld cell phone use while driving. Senate Bill 2121 was written by republican Senator Billy Hudson. The bill would have prohibited any texting and handheld cell phone use by all drivers. Minor drivers, under the age of eighteen, would be forbidden to use cell phones of any kind. Violators would be fined up to five hundred dollars. If an accident occurred, the offending driver would be fined one thousand dollars.
Senate Bill 2122, written by democratic Senator Kelvin Butler would have prohibited texting while driving. The proposed fines were the same as Senate Bill 2121. Senate Bill 2240 was written by republican Senator Nancy Collins. After being influenced by a high school student, Senator Collins wrote a bill that is apparently the same as SB 2122. All three of these bills were denied in the legislative session this year. According to the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, there is no record for cell phone user-related car crashes.
Mississippi has passed two laws that prohibit texting and wireless communication use. The law has been in effect since July 1, 2009, and was written by Butler. The approved Senate Bill 2280 was written as an act to amend certain sections of the 1972 Mississippi Code; with Section 5, specifically, mentioning drivers using handheld communication devices.
Section 5 of the bill that was voted into law states:
Drivers with intermediate licenses, learning or temporary permits; shall not operate a motor vehicle on the highway while using a cell phone or other electronic communication device to send or receive text messages, while the vehicle is moving.
This section of the law does not apply when faced with the following situations:
- the use of a cell phone or electronic communication device in these specific cases of emergency only; to speak with an emergency response operator, medical provider, ambulance, fire department or law enforcement agency.
- When the driver is reporting reckless or dangerous behavior
- A person, without anyone else in the car, while driving; believes they are or someone else, is in physical danger.
- Texting or receiving messages in a parked vehicle.
Violation of this law is a misdemeanor. If found guilty, a fine of up to five hundred dollars will be imposed. If the violation results in a car accident, a fine of no more than one thousand dollars will be enforced. If an accident report is required as a result of an offender causing a car accident; the investigating officer must indicate the type of hand-held communication device the driver was using on the accident form, at the time of the accident.
Senate Bill 2472 or Nathan’s Law was written by republican Senator Chris Mc Daniel. The bill was voted into law taking effect on July 1, 2011. The bill was named after five years old, Nathan Key. The Jones County boy was struck and killed, on his way home from school; by a driver trying to pass a parked school bus.
Nathan’s Law acts as an amendment to certain sections of the 1972 Mississippi code, as well; and states the following:
Motor vehicles must stop at least ten feet away from any parked school bus, picking up or dropping off students. Drivers of motor vehicles must wait until the student has safely crossed the street, and the school bus has resumed the act of moving.
Violation of Nathan’s Law is a misdemeanor. For a first conviction, fines are between three hundred fifty and seven hundred fifty dollars; or up to one year in prison. Some convicted offenders are charged with both, a fine and jail time. The punishment becomes more severe for drivers that are found guilty of repeat offenses.
Besides the motor vehicle guidelines listed above, Nathan’s Law also states:
Mississippi school bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones or other wireless communication devices while transporting children; except in an absolute emergency. There has been other texting and driving legislation denied by either the Senate or House of Representatives in 2011. A few of these dead bills and penalties include:
Senate Bill 2793
All Mississippi drivers caught text messaging would be fined five hundred dollars or one thousand dollars if an accident occurs. On February 3rd, this bill was passed by the Senate; but, the House committee killed the bill on March 8th.
House Bill 551
This bill was similar to Nathan’s Law, with legislation to include all passenger bus drivers with minors on board; not just school bus drivers. The bill was approved on January 12th by the House but denied by the Senate on March 1st.
The following bills all died in 2011:
House Bill 52
Was a proposal to ban texting and internet use while driving; with fines of up to one hundred dollars and five hundred dollars, if an accident occurred.
House Bill 125
This bill would have okayed the use of hands-free cell phones but prohibit the use of hand-held ones.
House Bill 324
This bill would have enabled the state to govern over any legislation pertaining to careless drivers or cell phone users. Thereby, voiding the already established local laws for distracted drivers.
House Bill 684
The wording in this proposal is very similar to House Bill 125. The penalty for first offenders is a fine of one hundred fifty dollars. Three hundred dollars for a second offense; if it occurs within three years of the first violation. Repeat violators would face a fine of five hundred dollars, along with possible jail time and community service, for three or more offenses.
House Bill 685
This proposal was similar to House Bill 52 with a larger fine of five hundred dollars or one thousand dollars, if an accident occurs.
House Bill 840
This bill suggested a twenty-five dollar fine for all drivers caught texting while operating a motor vehicle.
House Bill 1191
This bill was a higher fine proposal for careless driving violations caused by a wireless communication device. Fines would range from one hundred to one thousand five hundred dollars depending upon how many times the driver repeated the offense.
House Bill 1213
This was another bill seeking to ban cell phones being used without any hands-free attachments. Penalty fees would increase in accordance with the driver’s repeat violations.
House Bill 1226
Yet, another bill prohibiting internet use and texting, while operating a motor vehicle; with fines of one hundred or five hundred dollars.