Personal Injury Lawyers Omaha, NE

Omaha Family Pushes for Tougher Distracted Driving Laws in Nebraska

Woman driving a car and texting on a smartphone.

In honor of Distracted Driving Awareness Month this April, the car accident attorneys at Ausman Law Firm in Omaha are committed to raising awareness about common distractions behind the wheel. Each year, thousands of people die in crashes linked to texting and driving and other distractions. One Omaha family is turning tragedy into advocacy, urging Nebraska lawmakers to enact tougher distracted driving laws.

Lawmakers introduce tougher distracted driving legislation

Legislative Bill 1340 was introduced by State Sen. Kathleen Kauth. If enacted, it would raise motor vehicle homicide from a Class I misdemeanor to a Class IV felony. The bill would also allow for an enhanced penalty of a Class IIIA felony if the "proximate cause" of death is due to the use of a handheld wireless communication device.

The bill, nicknamed "Latacha's Law," is named after Dr. Matthew Latacha, a constituent of Senator Kauth's who was struck and killed while bicycling on September 10th. His wife, Dr. Kim Latacha, and their middle daughter, Madelyn, also testified in support of the bill. Madelyn stated that while her peers focus on high school and college, her "life is consumed by grief" following her father's death.

The Latacha family shed light on the stark contrast in sentencing, particularly that theft of over $1,500 in merchandise carries a stronger penalty than killing a bicyclist with a car.

"I think his life was worth more than $1,000," said Kim Latacha. "I think your loved ones are worth more, too."

What would tougher distracted driving laws accomplish?

Beyond increasing the felony classification for motor vehicle homicide, LB 1340 would also raise the fines for speeding. The proposed fine increases range from $50 for driving 1-5 mph over the speed limit to $400 for driving 35 mph or more over the speed limit. Senator Kauth argued that the current fines lack the "element of pain" necessary to serve as an effective deterrent.

The bill's sponsors and supporters pointed out that this legislation is about "life and death" and urged the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee to advance the bill. They argued that it's necessary to change the culture around distracted driving, which many see as a "regular part of daily commutes."

However, the bill faced some opposition. Spike Eickholt of the ACLU of Nebraska and the Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association testified that criminal law should be proportionate to the "mens rea," or intention, behind the crime.

Sen. Kauth acknowledged that the bill's language may need refinement to better reflect the goal of allowing prosecutors the option to pursue felony charges rather than making it a mandatory minimum. She showed a willingness to work with critics to improve the legislation and continue advocating for increased public safety measures.

What to do if you're hurt in a distracted driving car accident

All drivers are urged to put down their cell phones and keep their focus on the task of driving. However, distracted driving remains a widespread problem, and the risk persists each day on Nebraska's roads. If you were hurt in a crash, the legal team at Ausman Law Firm is here to help.

We investigate crashes like and gather strong evidence to hold negligent parties accountable. We also know how to negotiate with insurance companies and fight for maximum compensation while you focus on your recovery. When you become a client, we treat you like family and take a compassionate approach to your case. To schedule a free consultation, contact us online or call our Omaha law office today.

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Ausman Law Firm

9850 Nicholas St., Suite 305
Omaha, NE 68114
Phone: (402) 933-8140
Fax: (402) 913-3471