Vermont Distracted Driving Laws
- Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers (Primary Law).
- Ban on texting for all drivers (Primary Law).
Vermont’s Texting While Driving Stand
Law enforcement officers in the state of Vermont have been given the go-ahead by the Governor to issue tickets to anyone violating the new ban on texting while driving. In addition to the texting ban, Gov. Jim Douglas also signed a provision that makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to use a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. While enforcement is reportedly lax, it is considered primary under the law, meaning that a driver can be pulled over or these violations alone.
Texting while driving is illegal for all drivers in Vermont. The first offense is $100 and after it’s $250. Drivers under the age of 18 are not allowed to use cell phones while driving. The fine is also $100 for the first offense and $250 afterward.
While the texting and cell phone laws went into effect back in July of 2010, the enforcement of these new laws has been weak. Police report that only “dozens” of people have been issued citations. Official records show that 64 tickets were issued as of April 2011.
Legislation dealing with Cell Phone use and Texting:
The Senate version of Vermont Bill 280 calls for a ban of texting for all drivers in the state of Vermont with fines of $100/$250. This bill also calls for a license suspension of 30 days for those under the age of 18. The bill calls for primary enforcement of the law with two points placed on the license, while further offenses would garner five points, as well as education through the DMV. The Senate approved the bill in a 25-0 vote on the 5th of February. On May 6th, 2010, the House voted 134-5 for approval. On June 1st, 2010, Gov. Douglas signed the bill into law for immediate enforcement.
The House version of Senate Bill 280 was drawn up with the additional cause of banning all handheld cell phone use and texting for all drivers in the State. All cell phone use while driving would be illegal for those under the age of 18. This bill was also known as the 2010 Highway Traffic Safety Act. It got passed by the House on the 16th of March. The language was altered to include the use of seat belts for those under 18. Before the addition, police would not have pulled a driver over strictly for violation of seatbelt law. This bill was approved by both the Senate and House at the beginning of May and On June 1st, it was signed into law by the Governor, going into immediate effect.
Driving Legislation from 2010 that is now dead:
SB 151(Brock, Sears): This bill sought to eliminate the use of handheld devices while driving but allowed for the use of a hands-free device. The illegality of text messaging was also included in the language of the law. Anyone with a junior license was banned from using a cell phone or any other device for electronic communication while driving. The fine was levied at $100. This bill made it to the table of the Transportation Committee on the 5th of January and had a hearing on the 12th of the same month.
Vermont House Bill 496(Mrowiki): This bill sought to prohibit all text messaging by all drivers within the state. First offense fines were held at $750 while further offenses could garner up to $2,500 in fines. Second and third-time lawbreakers would also face mandatory jail time or community service for their continued offenses.
HB 493(Grad): This bill made texting illegal while operating a vehicle in the State of Vermont. This bill also included the operation of boats and ATV’s as well as snowmobiles. The bill called for two and five-point violations, along with $100/$250 fines. In addition, a 30-day license suspension was considered for young operators.
HB 277(Masland): This bill restricted all cell phone use for Vermont drivers without any provision for those using a hands-free phone or device. This bill did not call for primary enforcement, meaning that a driver would not be pulled over for strictly this reason. The fine proposed was $25/$100 and only if the driver received a fine for the primary offense committed.
Legislative Notes from 2010
On June 1st, at Montpelier High School, Governor James Douglas signed the bill for distracted drivers into law. At the school, a driving course was constructed that helped to demonstrate the dangerous conditions that texting and driving can cause.
Legislation from 2009
The 2009 session saw a bill being prepared that would limit cell phone use to only those that had a hands-free device. This bill also seeks to ban all cell phone and texting use for drivers under the age of 18. On April 9th of that year, this bill was approved in a preliminary fashion by the House.
Rep. Maxine Grad, a democrat from Moretown, was the sponsor of HB 147, also known as the Vermont highway driving safety bill.