LINCOLN–Bills regarding driver’s safety and drug use took center stage at various committee hearings in the Legislature this past week.
Texting while driving would be classified as a primary offense if LB668 is passed. The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Bob Krist of Omaha, would allow law enforcement officers to ticket any driver who is either talking on a cell phone or texting while driving.
Under current law, since distracted driving is only treated as a secondary offense, law enforcement cannot enforce the offense unless the driver is pulled over for a separate primary offense.
On Feb. 9 at the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee hearing, Krist said this is a serious issue in which Nebraska needs to be up to speed with the rest of the country.
Also relating to driver’s safety, the committee considered another Krist bill, LB669, which would require seat belts for all vehicle occupants. Similar to distracted driving, not wearing a seat belt is classified as a secondary offense. The new bill would switch the violation to a primary offense.
Nebraska is one of only 16 states without a primary seat belt law. In 2014, of the 189 people killed in traffic deaths across the state, nearly 70 percent of them were not wearing a seat belt. Krist said he hopes by focusing on public safety, fewer such tragedies will occur.
Drug use was also a hot-button issue addressed last week. On Feb. 11, LB804, introduced by Sen. Robert Hilkemann of Omaha, would give hope to Nebraskans suffering from chronic and potentially terminal illness. The drugs used in federal Food and Drug Administration clinical trials could be used by eligible Nebraskans.
Under the Investigational Drug Use Act, eligible patients could be treated with any drug, biological product or medical device that has successfully completed Phase 1 of a clinical trial, but has not been yet approved for general public use by the FDA.
To be eligible, a patient must fulfill the following criteria: have a documented, advanced illness; have considered all other treatment options; give written, informed consent for the use of the investigational treatment and have a recommendation from his or her physician for an investigational drug, biological product or device.
Since the turn of the century, drug overdose deaths in Nebraska have quadrupled, according to a 2014 study conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services. Under another bill, LB980, Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln is hoping cut down on such casualties.
The bill, which was brought to the Judiciary Committee on Feb. 10, would provide limited legal liability for those experiencing or witnessing a drug overdose. Such responsibility would be granted only if emergency medical assistance is requested as soon as the emergency is evident.