Teen cell-phone ban rejected in Virginia

| Monday, March 21, 2005

Virginia teenagers can continue to chat on their cell phones while driving.

Sen. Jay O’Brien, R-Clifton, withdrew his bill to ban cell phone use by drivers under age 18 after House lawmakers insisted on allowing teens to use “hands-free” mobile phones.

O’Brien’s bill – SB966 – sought to prohibit all cell phone use by young drivers. Violators could be pulled over solely for talking on the phone.

A conference committee of three House lawmakers and three senators voted 5-1 to adopt the Senate version but the House wouldn’t bend, voting 58-37 to reject the panel’s recommendation.

Delegate Jack Reid, R-Henrico, acknowledged that cell phone distractions can cause accidents but suggested that eating, drinking, changing a compact disc and putting on makeup while driving are equally dangerous, and all are covered by the state’s reckless driving law.

Other delegates warned that if the cell phone ban for teens passes, it won’t take long before it is forced on adults.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. William Mims said the issue would not go away.

“The scientific evidence is overwhelming that teens are distracted both by hands-on and hands-free cell phones,” Mims, R-Leesburg, told The Associated Press. “It’s quite unfortunate the House did not have sufficient care for the safety of teens to adopt a common sense measure. We will be back next year.”