States asked to ban cell phone use while driving

| 1/20/2009

Professional drivers traveling alongside people who appear to be focusing their attention on everything but the road has been a cause for concern since the early days of trucking. Today, lawmakers in more and more states are taking up the fight to limit distractions while driving.

Since the first of the year, legislators in at least 20 states have offered bills that are intended to limit driver distractions caused by cell phone use and text messaging. The push in statehouses throughout the country comes as the National Safety Council says states should ban all drivers, young and old, from using cell phones and messaging devices while behind the wheel.

The nonprofit advocacy group cites more than 50 studies that have identified the risks involved with cell phone use while driving.

“Studies show that driving while talking on a cell phone is extremely dangerous and puts drivers at a four times greater risk of a crash,” Janet Froetscher, the NSC’s president and CEO, said in a written statement.

The group, which is credited with being a driving force behind states adopting primary seat belt laws, is calling on governors and legislators to adopt rules that prohibit use of cell phones and other wireless devices.

Currently, 17 states forbid young drivers to use phones while behind the wheel.

California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Washington are the only states that have bans on all drivers using hand-held phones. With the exception of New York, each of these states also prohibits text messaging. Alaska, Louisiana and Minnesota have their own text messaging bans.

States with lawmakers who have offered legislation for consideration this year that would prohibit all drivers from using hand-held phones include Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. Measures in Utah and Virginia also would apply the ban to hands-free devices.

States pursuing legislation that would ban all drivers from using text messaging devices include Alabama and Nevada.

States with legislation to outlaw use of hand-held phones and text messaging include Arkansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. A Montana bill also would apply the ban to hands-free devices.

Young drivers’ use of any cell phone would be prohibited in legislation offered in Florida and Georgia. Texting and cell phone use for young drivers would be off-limits in legislation offered in Colorado, Kentucky and Wyoming.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor