Colorado lawmaker eyes cell phone restriction

| Friday, October 03, 2003

A Colorado state lawmaker is pushing for restrictions on how drivers use their cell phones, Denver’s KUSA TV reported.

Rep. Michael Garcia, D-Aurora, wants his legislative colleagues to require all drivers who use cell phones to use “hands-free devices,” saying it’s a matter of safety.

“It’s important to have both hands available to drive while operating a motor vehicle, and by definition, people cannot have both hands to drive if they’re using a hand-held cell phone device,” Garcia recently told the news station. “This is where the distraction and danger comes into play.”

Garcia also wants to ban younger drivers with a learner’s permit from chatting on cell phones while driving.

The young driver provision follows a National Transportation Safety Board report released earlier this year that recommended novice drivers be prohibited from using cell phones while on the road.

The safety board says that young drivers account for only 7 percent of the driving population but are involved in 15 percent of fatal accidents. Distracted drivers take 1.5 seconds longer to respond to hazards, the agency says.

“Learning how to drive and getting comfortable in traffic requires all the concentration a novice driver can muster,” NTSB Chairwoman Ellen Engleman said in a recent statement. “Adding a distracting element like a cell phone is placing too many demands on a young driver’s skills.”

Both measures are expected to be introduced when state lawmakers reconvene in January.