NEW: Bill Would Ban Cell Phones for Under-21 Drivers
Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Senator Frank Lombardo III (D-Dist. 25, Johnston) said he wrote the bill (2011-S 0346) to apply to drivers who are younger than 21 “because I believe it is obvious that cell phones and other communication devices are more prevalent among the young. They have essentially grown up with these devices, to the extent that many seem unable to function without them. One would hope that, by age 21, they are either growing more responsible or less inclined to be constantly using these devices.”
The once-simple cell phone has evolved into a text-messaging and Internet access device. Increased reliance on cell phones has led to a rise in the number of people who use these devices while driving, further jeopardizing the safety of vehicle occupants and pedestrians.
Over the past decade, numerous studies have been conducted on driver inattention, in particular focusing on the use of cell phones. Several studies have shown that using hand-held cell phones can constitute a hazardous distraction. Other studies have challenged the theory that hands-free sets are safer, concluding that talking on a cell phone while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk, even if the phone is a hands-free model.
A January, 2010, study by the National Safety Council included a report that estimated at last 1.6 million crashes (28 percent of all crashes) are caused each year by drivers talking or texting while driving.
“We have talked and talked about this issue for years,” said Sen. Lombardo. “We have tried to come up with proposals and laws while we’ve been wringing our hands about the carnage on our roads caused by inattentive drivers.”
“The talk needs to stop and the crashes and injuries need to stop. It is time to enact legislation that will have a significant impact on this problem,” he said.
The legislation would prohibit any drivers under the age of 21 from using a non-hands-free mobile telephone while driving on any highway, road or street in the state.
Currently before the Senate Committee on Judiciary, the bill would set a fine of up to $100 for any violator. The bill, however, provides that the fine would be suspended for a first-time violator who provides proof of purchase of a hands-free device subsequent to the violation but prior to the imposition of the fine.
“Drivers distracted by their cell phone conversations pose a serious threat to everyone on the road, and the young are clearly among the greatest offenders,” Sen. Lombardo concluded.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Sen. Donna M. Nesselbush (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket), Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick), Sen. Glenford J. Shibley (R-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, Warwick, West Warwick) and Sen. Elizabeth A. Crowley (D-Dist. 16, Central Falls, Cumberland, Pawtucket).
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