Indiana bill bars use of hand-held cell phones while driving

| 2/7/2005

A bill before the Indiana House transportation panel would require drivers to keep their hands off the phone.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, 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 – HB1508 – a driver caught using a hand-held phone could face a $25 fine. It would exempt emergency calls.

“When you’re on the phone, you don’t tend to put your mind to what you’re doing,” Summers told The Indianapolis Star. “It’s a real problem.”

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. Studies have shown that hands-free and hand-held cell phones are equally distracting to drivers.

“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 that was distracting, and that therefore cell phones should be used only in emergencies.