A rule requiring drivers in California to keep their hands
off their phones is one step closer to becoming reality.
The California Assembly Transportation Committee voted 8-5
to approve 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
Sponsored by Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, the bill has
been sent to the Assembly Appropriations Committee. If approved in the
Assembly, it would need final passage in the Senate before it could go to Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, who hasn’t taken a position on the bill.
“The difference between hand-held and hands-free is life and
death,” Simitian told The Sacramento Bee. This is the sixth time he has
introduced the legislation.
Opponents say the legislation is unnecessary. They say that
multiple national studies suggest that holding the phone isn’t the problem – talking on it is. Others say that behaviors such as eating, drinking and
attending to children are more common sure distractions than cell phone use.
The bill – SB1613 – 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 $20 fines. Repeat offenders would face $50 fines.
Emergency calls would be exempted. Another exemption was
removed from the bill that would have allowed push-to-talk, or “walkie-talkie,” devices.
Currently, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have the
only statewide laws restricting cell phone use in vehicles.