Cell phone ban legislation under consideration

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(Host) A number of legislative committees are considering bills that would prohibit drivers from using hand held cell phones while operating a vehicle.

Backers of the legislation argue that these types of cell phones cause significant driver distraction and result in unnecessary accidents.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Grand Isle senator Dick Mazza isn’t a big fan of government mandates as they relate to transportation issues.

But in the past few months, Mazza has narrowly avoided several accidents with drivers who were using hand held cell phones and he believes that the time has come for lawmakers to examine this issue.

Mazza is the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee and he wants his panel to review legislation that would prohibit drivers from using hand held cell phones.

(Mazza) “If you take notice like many of us do it is reason to believe that a lot of accidents I believe are being caused by cell phone operators because I think their mind is on the conversation and not on the roadway. And I see it happen time and time again. So it is an increasing problem. New York State does ban usage of phones. And I think sooner or later we’re going to have to do something here in Vermont.”

(Kinzel) Addison senator Claire Ayer is the lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate. Ayer says it’s critical for drivers to have two hands on the wheel as much as possible.

(Ayer) “It’s a small step that eliminates a part of the distraction. It’s actually talking on the telephone. It’s the kinds of things that we do as we’re speaking, focusing on somebody else, making arrangements for another day. Those are still distracting. But at least we’ll have two hands on the wheel.”

(Kinzel) Michael Murphy is the regional spokesperson for Verizon Wireless, one of the state’s largest wireless companies.

Murphy says Verizon will support the bill as long as it’s implemented on a statewide basis.

(Murphy) “In the past we have supported statewide legislation that calls for to require using hands free devices provided that the legislation exempts emergency calls and also includes a phase in period for customers so that they have time to comply. A driver’s first responsibility is safety and safety on the road.”

(Kinzel) The Senate and House Transportation committees also plan to consider legislation that would prohibit teenagers with a junior driver’s license from using any type of cell phone if they’re operating a vehicle.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier

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