A bill in the Pennsylvania General Assembly to require all
drivers in the state to keep their hands off the phone has been sidelined.
A provision was added to a bill in the Senate that called
for banning hand-held cell phone use while driving. The effort was approved
this past week by a vote of 33-16. However, House lawmakers later removed the
provision from the bill - HB1631 - essentially killing its chances of becoming
law before the regular session wraps up Thursday, Nov. 30.
The cell-phone provision allowed for drivers to talk on
phones equipped with a "hands-free" device.
Backed by Gov. Ed Rendell, violators would have faced $250
fines. They could only have been pulled over for another violation, such as
speeding, before they could have been ticketed for talking on the phone.
Emergency calls would have been exempted.
Rep. Josh Shapiro, D-Montgomery, has vowed to revive the
effort during the new session that begins Jan. 2.
Currently, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York have the
only statewide laws restricting cell phone use in vehicles. In 2008, California is slated to implement their own rule.
Shapiro said restrictions are needed in Pennsylvania because
the use of hand-held cell phones contributed to nearly 1,200 crashes in the
state in 2004.
However, more studies show that hands-free and hand-held
phones are equally distracting. Opponents of cell phone restrictions also say
that talking on cell phones is no more distracting than eating, drinking or
changing radio stations while driving.
In fact, research by the University of North Carolina
determined that cell-phone use ranked eighth in terms of distraction, The