Texas lawmaker pushes cell phone restriction

| Wednesday, December 22, 2004

A measure filed in the Texas House of Representatives would require drivers in the state to keep their hands off the phone.

Sponsored by Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, the proposal would ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. Talking on a phone equipped with a “hands-free” device would still be permitted.

Under HB237, a driver stopped for using a hand-held phone could be fined up to $100, or up to $200 if the offense occurs within a school zone.

Menendez’s bill would exempt emergency calls.

Statewide, 1,032 cell-phone related crashes were reported in 2001, the first full-year statistics were released since Texas started tracking such data, The Associated Press reported.

“I have seen studies that show that the reaction times are as slow as someone who is intoxicated when someone is holding the cell phone to their ear,” Menendez, who sponsored a similar measure in 2003 only to see it defeated, said. “I think we’ve got to do something. It’s ridiculous for us to keep our heads in the sand on this.”

AAA opposes laws restricting cell-phone use by drivers. The automotive association recommends that drivers avoid “emotional or complicated phone conversations.” AAA cites the safety benefits of having a cell phone in the vehicle in its reasoning for opposing bans.

Currently, New York and New Jersey have the only statewide laws restricting cell phone use in vehicles. Several states, however, are expected to address the issue in the coming months.