Rhode Island Senate’s Judiciary
Committee is reviewing a bill that would require drivers to keep their hands
off their phones.
Sponsored by Sen. V. Susan
Sosnowski, D-South Kingstown, the measure – SB482 –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.
Drivers under age 18 would be
prohibited from using any phone.
The bill would make it a secondary
offense to drive while using a hand-held phone – meaning a person would have to
be pulled over for another violation before they could be ticketed for talking
on the phones. Violators would face a $35 fine for the first offense, $70 for
the second, and $140 for the third and subsequent offense.
Emergency calls would be exempted.
Currently, New York and New Jersey
have the only statewide laws restricting cell phone use in vehicles. That may
change, however, as more studies underline the risks and dangers of driving
while chatting on the phone.
A recent study by the University
of Utah found that when drivers between the ages of 18 and 25 talk on cell
phones, they drive like elderly people – moving and reacting more slowly and
increasing their risk of accidents.
David Strayer, a University of
Utah psychology professor and principal author of the study, told The
Providence Journal laws banning all but hands-free devices are a reaction
by lawmakers who perceive that cell phones are a problem.
However, he said it doesn’t matter
whether the phone is hand-held or hands-free, calling into question the
effectiveness of legislation similar to that proposed by Sosnowski. Any
activity requiring a driver to “actively be part of a conversation” likely will
impair driving abilities, Strayer said.