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Hearings on cell phone restrictions start

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  • Hearings on cell phone restrictions start

    March 1, 2005, 5:58AM

    Hearings on cell phone restrictions start
    Many bills this year will address talking and driving
    Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Austin Bureau

    AUSTIN - Four years ago, 18-year-old Brandon Grisham was killed on a Fort Worth road after swerving to avoid another car whose driver was merging into his lane while talking on her cell phone.

    Hoping to protect others from the same fate, Brandon's mother, Dorothy, lobbied the House State Affairs Committee on Monday in favor of several bills aimed to restrict cell phone use while driving.

    "My (family) and I are confident that each of you have witnessed someone (so) distracted by their cell phone conversation that they are oblivious to their surroundings," she said. "They impede traffic, cause increased lane changes and greatly multiply the amount of accidents."

    No action was taken on the bills Monday. The committee is expecting two or three more to be filed within the next two weeks, and will decide where to go with them at that point.

    Both hands on the wheel

    Three of the bills were filed by Rep. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio. One would prohibit cell phone use while driving unless the driver uses a hands-free device and another would prohibit the use of a cell phone while driving through a school zone. Both allow for calls under emergency situations. A third bill would put restrictions on minors using cell phones.

    "All we are trying to do here is ask folks to pay attention to what they are doing and keep both hands on the wheel," Menendez said.

    A fourth bill, filed by Rep. Helen Giddings, D-De Soto, would prohibit a school bus driver from using a cell phone unless the bus is stopped, there are no passengers or there is an emergency.

    School bus drivers "have to operate a two-way radio, watch their gauges, be alert to road hazards and conditions and maneuver the bus through traffic," Giddings said. "A single driver must also supervise up to 65 students. They have too many things to do ... to be having a casual conversation."

    Inattentive driving

    Three senators — Rodney Ellis, D-Houston; Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio; and Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo — have filed similar legislation to restrict cell phone use. Ellis and Wentworth are focusing on all drivers, while Seliger's bill affects minors. Those bills have been referred to the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee.

    Henry Flores, of Sprint PCS in Austin, testified Monday against the bill that would require a hands-free device, but was neutral on the other three. He said there are too many other distractions while driving to focus solely on stopping cell phone use and said this bill unfairly discriminates against responsible drivers.

    "Reading maps, changing radio stations, addressing their children, changing CDs or cassettes. These are what we should be focusing on, inattentive driving," Flores said.

    Menendez said that even if these bills prevent one tragedy, they would be worth it.

    "Not every Texas resident uses a cell phone, but every Texas resident could be put in danger by someone who is distracted," he said.
    "Blue Oh-Two" (#424)
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  • #2
    I'm not against hands free devices but I agree overall with Flores. While the phone may have become the most common distraction, it's not the only one or the worst one.


    • #3
      It the person, not the equipment. Here again lawyers are trying to put the blame on cell phones for someone who doesn't watch what their doing.
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      • #4
        March 2, 2005, 8:00AM

        1 in 12 drivers talks on cell phone
        Associated Press

        WASHINGTON - More people than ever are driving under the influence of their cell phones, according to a new survey by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

        The survey showed 8 percent of drivers, or 1.2 million people, were using hand-held or handsfree cell phones during daylight hours last year, a 50 percent increase since 2002 and a 100 percent rise in four years.

        All that talking is a potential safety issue, said NHTSA spokesman Rae Tyson.

        "While we don't have hard evidence that there's been an increase in the number of crashes, we know that talking on the phone can degrade driver performance," Tyson said.

        New York, New Jersey and the District of Columbia prohibit talking on hand-held cell phones while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

        Some communities, such as Brookline, Mass., Santa Fe, N.M., and Lebanon, Pa., require handsfree cell phones, but about a half-dozen states prohibit local governments from restricting cell phone use in motor vehicles.

        Young drivers, between 16 and 24, increased their talking on cell phones by 60 percent between 2002 and 2004.

        The National Transportation Safety Board said it wants all 50 states to ban those with learner's permits from using cell phones or other wireless devices while driving. New Jersey and Maine are the only two that have passed such laws.

        The survey was conducted between June 7 and July 11, 2004, at 1,200 road sites across the country and, in some cases, supplemented by telephone surveys.
        "Blue Oh-Two" (#424)
        Rick's header, Hondata gasket, Mugen thermostat/fan switch, Mugen radiator cap, Aussie mirror, Lucid's rear speakers, Alpine CDA-7893R & KCE-865B, Muz's saddlebag, Windscreen Light, Modifry's glove box organizer and lots of Zaino!