California lawmaker revisits cell-phone restriction for drivers

| 1/31/2006

A California state lawmaker will renew his effort to require drivers in the state to keep their hands off their phones.

For the fourth consecutive year, Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, is expected to introduce 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.

“I think timing is everything in life and in politics,” Simitian told Rocklin and Roseville Today. “There are certainly times when a very worthy idea just needs another hearing. It may be ahead of its time.”

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.

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

Simitian’s latest 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.