Kentucky bill would restrict drivers' cell phone use

| Monday, January 23, 2006

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 introduced 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.

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

Emergency calls would be exempt.

Currently, Connecticut , New York and New Jersey have the only statewide laws restricting cell phone use in vehicles. That list may grow, however, as more studies underline the risks and dangers of driving while talking on the phone.

A recent study found that using cell phones while driving can distract drivers, regardless whether they’re using a hands-free device.

The human brain can’t simultaneously give full attention to both auditory and visual tasks, according to research by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore . In other words, if you’re on the phone, your brain can’t devote as much attention to driving.

To make matters worse, research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says driver cell phone use increased in 2005 by 1 percent to 6 percent nationwide, compared to 5 percent in 2004.

The 2005 rate translates into 974,000 vehicles on the road being driven by someone on a hand-held phone at any given daylight moment, Reuters reported. It also translates into an estimated 10 percent of vehicles in the typical daylight moment whose driver is using some type of phone, whether hand-held or hands-free.

Marcotte’s bill – HB9 – is in the House Transportation Committee.

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