Kentucky bill would restrict drivers’ cell phone use

| 1/30/2008

A bill in the Kentucky House would require drivers in the state to keep their hands off their phones.

Sponsored by Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, the bill would ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. Talking on a phone equipped with a hands-free device would still be permitted.

The bill would make it a secondary offense to drive while using a hand-held phone – meaning a person would have to be pulled over for another violation before they could be ticketed for talking on the phone. First-time offenders would receive warnings. Repeat offenders would face fines between $20 and $100.

Emergency calls and use of CB radios would be exempted.

Supporters of limiting driver distractions point to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The agency contends that “distractions,” such as cell phones, contribute to as many as 30 percent of all traffic wrecks.

However, more studies show that hands-free and hand-held phones are equally distracting. Opponents of cell phone restrictions also say that talking on cell phones is no more distracting than eating, drinking or changing radio stations while driving.

Others say lawmakers shouldn’t be restricting people in their vehicles.

Currently, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have the only statewide laws restricting cell phone use in vehicles. In 2008, California and Washington are slated to implement their own rules. Several other states are pursuing similar restrictions.

The Kentucky bill – HB56 – is in the House Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Kentucky in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor