New Orleans lawmaker proposing hands-free cell phone bill

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wwltv.com

Posted on March 12, 2012 at 10:10 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 12 at 10:21 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS -- It is already against the law to text and drive in Louisiana, and now a proposed bill could take that law one step further.

State Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, and Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, want the Legislature to pass a bill making it illegal to talk and drive without a hands-free device.

"They drive. They text. They don't pay attention. They drive slow, the expressway, the service streets. It is not safe," said Duane David about distracted drivers on area roadways.

According to law enforcement agencies, the texting and cell phone chatting driver can be a danger on the road.

"Any sort of distraction, whether we're talking about cell phones or texting, playing with your radio, or talking to your passengers, anything you have inside that car that can take away your attention from the roadway. It can have some serious consequences if you're in a crash," said Louisiana State Police Trooper Nick Manale, adding the statistics surrounding distracted driving are astounding.

"National studies have shown that distracted drivers are four times more likely to be in a crash then drivers who aren't distracted," said Manale.

State laws already on the books make it illegal for anyone to text and drive. Another law requires drivers under 18 to not operate a motor vehicle and use their cell phones.

Now two state lawmakers are pushing for more regulation.

"Its a comprehensive bill to ban all cell phone use. That's not really going to pass and it's going to have a difficult time," said Badon, who has filed a bill pushing for an entire ban on cell phones in vehicles but expects that the wording will likely change.

"We're going to propose some amendments to make it a total hands-free bill, where people can still utilize their phone but they'd have to use a hands-free device such as a Bluetooth, or the speaker phone, or a device that's already built inside the vehicle," said Badon.

"I don't know why its so hard to get this through the Legislature with all the hand sets, the hand free sets they have now it should be not that tough of a deal," said driver Duane David.

Other drivers tell Eyewitness News that the bill would be lucrative for the state.

"I think they'd make mega money on that kind of law here," said driver Gerald Pierce.

Some New Orleans drivers want to know how a hands-free law would be enforced.

"I'm not sure how it would be policed, but I think anything that would help contribute to the safety on the highway is a good idea," said driver Henry Alexander.

Badon says the Senate Transportation Committee will start looking at the bill in the coming weeks.

State lawmakers have rejected similar legislation introduced by Badon and other lawmakers for at least four years now.

According to the Governor's Highway Safety Association, a total of nine states already ban drivers from using hand-held cell phones behind the wheel.

 

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