By Bob Katzen
Approved by the Senate and stuck in the House Ways and Means Committee since June 30, 2017 is a measure that would prohibit drivers from using a hand-held cell phone or another device to make a call, operate the phone’s camera or access social media while driving. The measure allows drivers to use only a hands-free phone.
Use of a hand-held phone would be permitted in emergencies including if the vehicle was disabled; medical attention or assistance was required; police, fire or other emergency services were necessary for someone’s personal safety; or a disabled vehicle or an accident was present on a roadway.
Violators would be fined $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a third and subsequent offenses. A third offense would result in the violation being be considered a moving violation for purposes of the safe driver insurance plan.
Supporters say that the bill would save lives and prevent accidents. They note that the measure does not ban cell phone use but simply requires the use of hands-free ones. They pointed to accidents, deaths and injuries involving hand-held cell phones.
Some opponents say that the restriction is another example of government intrusion into people’s cars and lives. Others noted that there are already laws on the books prohibiting driving while distracted.