If an Arkansas lawmaker gets his way, the state will join
the list of other states that require drivers to keep their hands off the
State Sen. Kim Hendren, R-Gravette, has introduced two bills
intended to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. Talking on a phone
equipped with a "hands-free" accessory would still be permitted.
The first bill - SB6 - would require drivers to possess a
hands-free device in their vehicles when using a cell phone. The second bill -
SB7 - would require drivers to use a hands-free device when talking on the cell
Drivers stopped for another offense who are found to be in
violation of the proposed rules would get off with a citation as a warning for
the first offense. No penalty would be imposed.
Additional offenses could net offenders a fine up to $50.
The bills include exemptions for emergency calls.
Hendren told KTHV-TV
in Little Rock he offered the different bills because he didn't know if there
was enough support for a stricter ban on cell phone use in vehicles.
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 its own rule.
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 Patriot-News reported.
A separate bill by Hendren would get tough with anyone who
fails to cover certain loads of loose material.
The bill - SB8 - would require a motor vehicle or trailer
with an open bed and transporting gravel or rock on paved public streets or
highways to secure such loads with a cover as to "prevent the load from
dropping, sifting, leaking, or otherwise escaping."
Hendren's bills are expected to come up for consideration
during the session that begins Jan. 8.
- By Keith Goble,
state legislative editor