A pair of bills in Indiana that originally sought to require
drivers to keep their hands off the phone are dead.
Sponsored by Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis, and Sen. Rose Ann
Antich-Carr, D-Merrillville, the measures called for banning
hand-held cell phone use while driving. Talking on a phone equipped with a “hands-free” device would have still been permitted.
The efforts failed to come up for votes on the floors of
their respective chambers prior to the deadline for bills to pass from their
Meanwhile, Summers’ bill would have made driver inattention
a topic for a summer study.
The bill started out like the one offered by Antich-Carr as
a straight ban on hand-held cell phone usage. But it was weakened in committee
by Rep. Cleo Duncan, R-Greensburg, who said she did not want to single out
phone users unfairly.
Cell phones, she told The Indianapolis Star, are
simply part of a broader problem: distracted driving.
Indiana is one of 15 states this year to take up legislation
to tighten regulations against the use of hand-held cell phones while driving,
according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
New York and New Jersey have the only statewide laws
restricting cell phone use in vehicles.
But with cell-phone related incidents making up only a small
percentage of motor vehicle accidents, government officials are questioning why
this particular behavior was chosen for a law. 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 that was distracting, and that
therefore cell phones should be used only in emergencies.
The cell phone bills
were HB1508 and SB343.