Nebraska bill limits drivers' cell phone use

| Monday, January 31, 2005

A Nebraska lawmaker wants the state to join the list of other states that require drivers to keep their hands off the phone.

State Sen. Jim Cudaback of Riverdale has introduced legislation that would ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. Talking on a phone equipped with a “hands-free” device would still be permitted.

Under the bill – LB213 – a driver stopped for using a hand-held phone could be fined up to $100.

Cudaback’s bill would exempt emergency calls.

Fred Zwonechek, administrator of the state’s Highway Safety Office, told The Associated Press there is not enough data collected on accidents in Nebraska to know how frequently cell-phone usage by drivers is a contributor to an accident, but the devices’ use commonly is blamed for distracting drivers and leading to accidents.

In 1997, however, a study by the New England Journal of Medicine showed drivers chatting on a cell phone were four times more likely to be in a collision – about the same as the increase caused by drunken driving.

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 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.

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