Cell phone restriction passes Connecticut House

| Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Connecticut House of Representatives has approved legislation that would add the state to the short list of states that require drivers to keep their hands off the phone.

Lawmakers voted 116-24 April 28 to approve a bill that would ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. Talking on a phone equipped with a “hands-free” device would still be permitted for most drivers.

The bill – HB6722 – has been sent to the Senate for further consideration. If approved, it would head to Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who has said she will sign the bill in its current version.

Drivers under age 18 and school bus drivers would be banned from using any phone.

Violators would face a $100 fine with an exception for anyone making an emergency call.

Included in the bill is a provision that would add $100 to the fine of those who drive erratically or cause an accident because they’re engaging in activities such as drinking coffee, reading maps, eating or putting on makeup.

Connecticut 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.

Currently, 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 distracting.

“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, recently 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.

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