Nebraska Distracted Driving

A Guide to Nebraska's Distracted Driving Laws

(It's more than just not texting.)

Distracted Driving

There are roughly 60,000 car accidents every year in Nebraska. And most of these are simple distracted driving mistakes that are completely preventable.

That’s why arguably THE most important thing you can do behind the wheel is keep your hands at 10 and 2 and your eyes on the road. Always.

What Is Distracted Driving?

The state of Nebraska defines distracted driving as “driving when the brain is experiencing an increased workload, causing the driver to lose full focus on operating a moving vehicle.  When distractions occur, information is processed slower along with reaction times making crashes more likely to happen.”

There are three types of distractions:

  • Manual: anything that causes you to take your hands off the wheel, like eating, smoking, or reaching for an object
  • Visual: anything that causes you to take your eyes off the road, like looking at a GPS, checking your hair in the review mirror,  or looking at kids in the backseat
  • Cognitive: anything that causes you to take your mind off the task of driving, like having a conversation with a passenger, going over your shopping list in your head, or daydreaming

Distracted driving, speeding, and driving under the influence are currently the top three factors in serious-injury and fatal car accidents in this state.

Distracted Driving Statistics in Nebraska

You don’t have to follow the local news every night to know that distracted driving is a problem, but here are a few statistics that might help you understand just how serious it is in Nebraska:

  • In 2017, there were 4,699 accidents involving distracted driving in Nebraska.
  • By comparison, drunk driving caused 1,661 accidents and speeding caused 2,007 accidents in Nebraska that same year.
  • Approximately 22% of all cellphone-related car accidents in NE involve teen drivers.
  • Cell phone use makes up only about 5% of accident-related distractions.
  • The top distraction in this state is inattention, or daydreaming, which is responsible for nearly 77% of distracted driving accidents.

Distracted Driving Statistics by Year in Nebraska

Distracted Driving Statistics by Year in Nebraska

As this chart indicates, the number of distracted driving accidents is on the rise. This explains why many call Driving While Distracted (DWD) the new Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

Does Nebraska Have Laws against Distracted Driving?

Yes.

Nebraska currently prohibits:

  • Text messaging and Internet use
  • Drivers under the age of 18 with learner’s permits or other intermediate licenses from using cell phones, even hands-free

Are There Any Exceptions to the Distracted Driving Laws in Nebraska?

Yes.

Nebraska’s distracted driving laws don't apply when the driver is using an electronic device to report an emergency situation or to perform their official duties as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, ambulance driver, or emergency medical technician.

And adult drivers are allowed to use electronic devices that are part of the motor vehicle or permanently attached to it and can send and receive text messages if using hands-free technology.

Nebraska Distracted Driving Laws at a Glance


            Yes            No
Is texting while driving legal?
                X               
Can you send/receive texts at a red light?                X               
Is handheld device use permitted?                X
Any special restriction for young drivers?                X                
Is headphone/headset use permitted?                X               

Is It Legal to Eat a Cheeseburger While Driving in Nebraska?

Yes. But that doesn't mean you should.

Distracted driving comes in many forms, and eating a cheeseburger can be just as distracting as talking on a handheld cell phone.

So, what happens if a police officer in Nebraska sees you eating a cheeseburger while driving down the highway? In most cases, nothing. There's no law that says you can't eat while driving in this state.

But even legal distractions (like eating or adjusting the radio) can significantly increase your risk of being in an accident or driving erratically, so it's better to avoid them as much as possible. Otherwise, you might find yourself looking at a citation.

Unless you're really in a hurry, you’re better off eating your Whopper indoors or in the parking lot.

What's the Difference between Primary and Secondary Enforcement of Distracted Driving Laws?

Primary enforcement of distracted driving laws means the police can pull you over if they see you violating state distracted driving laws.

Secondary enforcement of distracted driving laws means the police can cite you for violating distracted driving laws only if you break another law while doing so.

Nebraska uses secondary enforcement.

This means that even if a police officer sees you texting while driving, as long as you are obeying all traffic laws and are in total control of your vehicle while doing so, there's nothing they can do about it.

What's the Fine for Distracted Driving in Nebraska?

The penalties for a distracted driving citation in Nebraska are as follows:

  • For a first offense: $200
  • For a second offense: $300
  • For a third or subsequent offense: $500

A distracted driving violation is a traffic infraction, which means not only will there be a fine, but the driver will also have points added to their driving record. This, in turn, leads to another expense in the form of higher insurance rates – which brings us to our next subject.

Nebraska compared to the rest of the US on texting and driving restrictions

States that have laws against texting and driving

Every state in the US has a law that prohibits some sort of cell phone usage except Montana and Arizona. But in 2021, newly enacted cell phone restriction laws will go into effect in Arizona.

Does Distracted Driving in Nebraska Increase Insurance Rates?

Yes

Because distracted driving laws follow secondary enforcement, if you got a ticket for it, you broke another law in addition to the distracted driving violation. These combined violations will most certainly have an impact on your car insurance rates.

In fact, Nebraska residents see their car insurance go up an average of $218 a year following a distracted driving citation. This is about 25% higher than the national average.

And if you have a safe driver discount, you can probably kiss that goodbye. Distracted driving will almost certainly disqualify you from receiving this discount, and this can cause your rate increase to be even more painful.

What If I Drive into Another State?

Distracted driving laws vary by state, and when you cross that state line you are required to follow their laws. Claiming ignorance of the law will not get you out of a citation, so be sure to check on the current laws for any states you may be traveling through before you take your next road trip.

If you’re used to Nebraska’s secondary enforcement of distracted driving laws, you may be surprised if you get pulled over in a neighboring state like Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, or Wyoming. 

Even if you're in total control of your vehicle and not breaking any laws, if a police officer sees you texting from behind the wheel in any of those states, you’re likely to get a ticket.

What's Nebraska Doing To Prevent Distracted Driving?

Because this state relies on secondary enforcement, its distracted driving laws are weak and police officers are handicapped in their attempts to enforce them. For this reason, lawmakers like state senators Robert Hilkemann and Rick Kolawski have been working to switch the state to primary enforcement.

Sen. Kowalksi pointed to the positive results in nearby Iowa, which recently switched from secondary to primary enforcement. “It’s impactful,” stated Kowalski, “it’s saving lives and property.” Unfortunately, to date, his and Hilkemann’s efforts have gained no traction in the state Senate.

So What Can You Do?

Quite simply, just put the phone away — even if that means in the glove compartment. The fines themselves are definitely not worth it, let alone the more serious consequences to you and others on the road. Let’s all just get where we’re going safely and save the texting until you get home.

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https://dot.nebraska.gov/media/13521/facts2018.pdf

https://nebraskalegislature.gov/laws/statutes.php?statute=60-6,179.01

https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/cell-phones-and-texting-distracted-driving-laws-in-nebraska

https://handsfreeinfo.com/nebraska-cell-phone-laws-legislation/