Virginia bill would restrict drivers' cell phone use

| Monday, January 09, 2006

A bill prefiled in the Virginia General Assembly would require drivers in the state to keep their hands off their phone.

Sen. Henry Marsh III, D-Richmond, has offered 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.

Those found in violation could opt out of a fine if they provide proof that they obtained a hands-free device since they were ticketed. But, that defense will only work one time. Subsequent offenses by the same driver would not have that option.

Currently, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey have the only statewide laws restricting cell phone use in vehicles.

Marsh’s bill follows more studies that show hands-free and hand-held phones are equally distracting.

A recent Insurance Institute of Highway Safety study indicated that drivers using phones were four times as likely to be in crashes serious enough to injure themselves. Researchers found that the increased crash risk was consistent for those using either hand-held or hands-free phones.

The bill – SB16 – has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee for consideration in the legislative session that begins Jan. 11.

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