An Arizona state lawmaker is pursuing legislation that would
add the state to the list of states that require drivers to keep their hands
off the phone.
Rep. Tom Prezelski, D-Tucson, 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 – HB2159 – a driver stopped for using a
hand-held phone could be fined up to $200. It would exempt emergency calls.
Prezelski said he doesn’t think it will get a hearing in the
Legislature because similar efforts have failed in the past, but he is hopeful
it will evoke public interest.
“We go after people who drive drunk, but we don’t go after
people who drive stupid,” he told The State Press.
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.
But with cell-phone related incidents making up only a small
percentage of motor vehicle accidents, even government officials wonder why
this particular behavior was chosen for a law, since studies have shown that
hands-free and hand-held cell phones are equally
“We’ve evaluated and
come to the conclusion that hands-free use is just as risky or perhaps riskier
than hand-held phones because it’s the cognitive distraction that can
compromise driving” Rae Tyson, a spokesman for the National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration, told The New York Times.
Tyson said research
within his agency and outside, along with driving simulations, found that it
was the talking on a cell phone while driving – not holding it – that was
distracting, and that therefore cell phones should be used only in emergencies.
Prezelski’s bill has
been sent to the House Judiciary, Transportation and Rules committees.