Wednesday, April 8, 2009

House Approves Cell Phone Ban

A bill that would make illegal, at least for the vast majority of motorists, the practice of holding a cell phone to the ear while driving cleared the House this morning.

The vote was 39-25. Six Republicans voted in favor of the bill, while five Democrats opposed it.

HB 1094 would require all drivers to employ hands-free equipment while talking on a wireless telephone.

The measure would also generally prohibit minors and school bus drivers from talking on a wireless telephone, even with a hands free device, while operating a motor vehicle. The only exception to that new statutory rule would be the use of the wireless telephone to contact a law enforcement agency.

The bill flatly prohibits, for all drivers, the practice of 'texting" while driving, as well as the use of electronic mail and Internet web-browsing and other applications requiring the use of a keyboard.

The bill exempts police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and some commercial truck drivers from its strictures.

Drivers would be authorized to use a cell phone without a hands-free device in an emergency situation, such as when a person's life or safety is in danger or a crime is being committed. In addition, use of a wireless telephone would be permitted when necessary to report a "fire, traffic accident in which one or more injuries are apparent, a serious road hazard, a medical or hazardous materials emergency, or a person who is driving in a reckless, careless, or otherwise unsafe manner."

The ban on the use of a wireless telephone while driving would not apply when a vehicle is lawfully parked or when it is stopped on the shoulder of a road or highway.

A first offense would result in a $50 dollar fine. Subsequent offenses would draw a $100 fine. The bill does not authorize law enforcement officers to search or seize a wireless telephone used by a motorist in violation of its provisions.

HB 1094 now heads to the Senate. It is sponsored in that chamber of the General Assembly by Sen. Bob Bacon, D-Fort Collins.