Florida bill may halt local governments from banning cell phone use

| Friday, March 15, 2002

The Florida House passed a bill Mar. 7 that would allow drivers to keep on dialing while they drive, even in areas where local governments have outlawed hand-held cell phone use behind the wheel. A bill sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (D-Fort Lauderdale) preempts regulation already in place.

"In a year we would come back and decide a statewide standard on cell phones and all other distractions while driving," said Smith. "It just seems like common sense to me."

There currently are 13 bills in the Florida regular and special sessions relating to cell phone use. H233, passed by the Senate, prevents cities and counties from regulating use of the devices in cars. As of Mar. 7, Smith's bill has been combined with S358 of which Smith is a co-sponsor. S358 would require a yearlong study of driving distractions and also addresses the issue of regulation of operator or passenger use of commercial mobile radio.

If signed by Gov. Jeb Bush, the combined bill would require the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to track whether cell phones and other distractions are a major cause of accidents and would stop local governments from banning cell phone use in their counties.

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