HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana became the only state in the nation that does not ban at least some drivers from texting when a new law took effect in South Carolina this week.
State Department of Transportation Director Mike Tooley said Wednesday that while he believes Montana needs such a ban, the state has never led the charge for new laws regarding highway safety, leaving it to municipalities.
"I am disappointed that once again we're last to take something regarding highway safety seriously," Tooley said, noting the state went without a statewide law on child safety restraints for years.
About a dozen ordinances in Montana cities and two counties ban texting behind the wheel, according to the department.
Driver cellphone usage contributed to 1,614 crashes from 2004 to 2013, Montana Highway Patrol data shows.
Forty-four states, including South Carolina and Washington, D.C., ban texting while driving for all ages, AAA said. A handful of others, such as Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas only outlaw it for young and/or inexperienced drivers and for some bus drivers. In Arizona, cellphone use while driving is only illegal for bus drivers.