Transportation bills target drivers using cell phones

Source: US Census
Source: US Census

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The House Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works is scheduled to discuss a couple of noticeable bills Monday focusing on cell phone use while driving.

Baton Rouge Representative Regina Barrow wants a state law that says drivers can only talk on their cell phones if they are using a hands-free device. She says drivers are already distracted and talking on the phone takes their attention away from what's happening on the road.

"I've witnessed individuals drifting from lane to lane. It's because they forgot they were driving while on the cell phone," said Barrow.

Barrow wants to make the use of cell phones illegal for all drivers if they're not using a hands free device, and she wants it to be a secondary offense.  Meaning police cannot pull you over for just that, but if they pull you over for another reason you could get a ticket for the cell phone issue.

"We need to get back to both hands, like we were taught," said Barrow.

Drivers we spoke with around the metro area agree with Barrow.  One woman, Paulette W. Jones, told us she was rear-ended by a man who was texting on his phone.  She agrees what Barrow's proposing should be passed.

"Hands free would be better," said Michael Desmond.  "People wouldn't like it."

Overall drivers say a hands free form of communication when driving would be safer for everyone.  Barrow's bill did pass out of the committee.  It will be up for debate on the House floor.  In recent years, when legislation similar to what Barrow is proposing made this far, it's been killed.

Representative Austin Badon Jr., D-New Orleans, also looks to make using cell phones illegal for all drivers, but he wants to make the violation a primary offense.

Another bill by Barrow to be debated, HB 886, increases the texting while driving penalty for a first-time violation from not more than $175 to a maximum of $300.

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