Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed a bill into law this month that
adds Connecticut to the short list of states that require drivers to keep their
hands off the phone. The new rule takes effect Oct. 1.
The new law bans hand-held cell phone use while driving.
Talking on a phone equipped with a “hands-free” device will still be permitted
for most drivers.
Drivers under age 18 and school bus drivers are banned from
using any phone.
The new law, previously HB6722, makes it a secondary offense
to drive while using a hand-held phone – meaning
they would have to be pulled over for another violation, such as speeding,
before they could be ticketed for talking on the phone. Violators would
face up to a $100 fine. Emergency calls will be still allowed.
Included in the new rule is a provision to add a $100 fine
to 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
while behind the wheel.
Connecticut is one of 37 states this year to consider
legislation to tighten regulations against the use of hand-held cell phones
while driving, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The state joins New York and New Jersey as having 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, some 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.
– By Keith Goble,
state legislative editor