Fred Smoot's Viking Love Boat (alladinsane) wrote in drivewithphone,
Fred Smoot's Viking Love Boat

New York soon to be first state to ban driving while using handheld cell phones...

From USA Today...

New York is expected Monday to become the first state to ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving.

The state Assembly is scheduled to pass legislation hammered out last week with Gov. George Pataki and approved Thursday night by the state Senate.

"The bill will pass, we have the numbers," predicts Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, who drew laughs when he first sponsored legislation to ban talking on cellphones while driving in 1996.

"We're going to make history."

Under the bill, drivers in New York could be fined up to $100 after Dec. 1 if they are caught holding phones. For 30 days before that, police will issue warnings.

The law's only loopholes: Handheld cell phones could be used in an emergency. And fines for first-time offenders could be waived until March 1 if drivers proved they bought a device that allows them to talk without holding the phone in their hands.

To talk and drive legally, an estimated 6 million New Yorkers will have to buy hand-freeing equipment, which can cost from $15 for plug-in headsets to more than $200 for kits that allow phones to be cradled on the dashboard or console.

A handful of states, including California, Arizona and Massachusetts, have adopted minor restrictions on cell phones and driving. Eleven local jurisdictions around the country have passed laws restricting the use of cell phones.

In Brooklyn, Ohio, the first city to ban using handheld cell phones while driving, police have issued roughly 500 citations since September 1999. There have been no repeat offenders so far, Patrolman Rich Hovan says.

It's too early to tell whether other states will follow New York's lead, says Matt Sundeen, a senior policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures.

This year, 41 states have had bills proposed to regulate yakking while driving, but most of the measures have died. Most states decided more research was needed on how much of a distraction cell phones cause before they are singled out for legislation.

"We have come out and said in general we think this type of legislation is premature," says Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the National Association of Governors' Highway Safety Representatives, which represents the highway safety offices of states.

"There are other distractions in the automobile that pose a greater danger to the driver eating, changing the CD, changing the radio," Adkins said.

"It's just too soon."

New York lawmakers moved ahead with the ban after three of the state's largest counties passed restrictions on using cell phones while driving and after a poll in March showed that 87% of New York voters said they favored a ban.
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