Effort would restrict drivers' cell phone use in Kentucky

| Friday, June 24, 2005

If a Kentucky state lawmaker gets his way, drivers in the state would be required to keep their hands off their phones.

Rep. Paul Marcotte, R-Union, has prefiled a bill for the 2006 session that would ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. Talking on a phone equipped with a “hands-free” device would still be permitted.

The bill will be considered when Kentucky lawmakers return to the Capitol for the regular session that begins in January.

“We’ve got to take every opportunity to make our roads safer, even if that means waiting a couple of miles to make a cell phone call,” Marcotte told The Kentucky Post.

Marcotte said he feels public sentiment is behind him. In a mail survey he sent out to constituents this year, 62 percent of respondents said that banning hand-held cell phone use in vehicles was “essential to highway safety,” the newspaper reported.

The proposal 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 phone. Violators would face a fine between $20 and $100.

Emergency calls would be exempted.

Currently, New York and New Jersey have the only statewide laws restricting cell phone use in vehicles. A bill before Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell would add the state to the short list. That list may grow, however, as more studies underline the risks and dangers of driving while talking on the phone.

The latest study to find that using cell phones while driving can distract drivers, regardless of whether they’re using a hands-free device, was released this week.

The human brain can’t simultaneously give full attention to both auditory and visual tasks, according to research by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“Our research helps explain why talking on a cell phone can impair driving performance, even when the driver is using a hands-free device,” Steven Yantis, a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the university, said in a press release. “When attention is deployed to one modality – say, in this case, talking on the cell phone – it necessarily extracts a cost on another modality – in this case, the visual task of driving.”

In other words, if you’re on the phone, you’re brain can’t devote as much attention to driving.

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