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Supreme Court: Old Texting While Driving Law Not Enough

2012 Gara-Thomas legislation prevents Alaska from being one of few states without prohibition

Alaska’s old law prohibiting the use of certain visual display screen devices while driving did not prohibit texting while driving, according to an Alaska Supreme Court decision issued this week.  The decision upholds Kenai Peninsula Magistrate Jennifer K. Wells’ action that called the law into question and inspired Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) and former Representative Bill Thomas (R-Haines) to pass a law specifically outlawing texting while driving in Alaska.

“Texting behind the wheel endangers everyone on the road. We wanted to make sure it was clear to Alaskans that texting while driving is not OK,” said Gara. "When I learned the original law was in limbo, it seemed we should fix it right away rather than have no law in place while we waited for lengthy litigation."

Without the 2012 law, Alaska would join only three other states without specific prohibitions on texting while driving.  According to the Anchorage Daily News, state prosecutors filed 31 texting while driving cases in the first year after the bill passed.

Representatives Peggy Wilson (R-Wrangell), Max Gruenberg (D-Anchorage), Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) and the late Carl Gatto (R-Palmer) were all co-prime sponsors on the bi-partisan 2012 legislation.

Read the May 2012 press release on enactment of the law: http://akdemocrats.org/blog/2012/05/10/news-its-official-texting-while-driving-is-illegal-in-alaska/

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