Legislation introduced by Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D-Burbank) that
would require drivers to keep hand-held cell phones away from their
ears while on the road is picking up speed in the Assembly after
passing a key committee.
If the bill passes, drivers would be required to use cellular
hands-free technology while on the road. Violators would be fined up
to $50 for the infraction. The law would take effect in January 2005.
The Assembly Transportation Committee passed the bill -- authored
by Frommer and Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto) -- this week with a 14-5
vote. Its next stop is the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“I think there is a proliferation of new devices that people are
using in their cars which distract them,” Frommer said. “Based on
reports, there is a risk associated with using a cell phone while
driving, specifically in holding the cell phone.”
Frommer pointed to studies such as a California Highway Patrol
report that found that 11% of crashes involving distracted drivers
were linked to cell-phone use, he said. Between Jan. 1 and June 30 of last year, six deaths and 264 injuries were connected to driving
while using a cell phone, Frommer said of the study’s findings.
“I’ve received a lot of letters and calls from constituents on
this issue,” Frommer said. “There is a public concern about this.”
In the past two years, the same legislation was killed in the
Assembly, Frommer said, adding that the cell-phone industry lobbied
A Nokia spokeswoman declined to discuss the company’s stance on
similar legislation. But she said safety is a part of its user
guidelines, published with each new phone.
“We recommend that users do not use a hand-held phone while
driving -- rather that they park the vehicle first,” Nokia spokes-
woman Laurie Armstrong said.
Police have become more vigilant about cell-phone use while
“It’s the inattention that would be part of what an officer would
find wrong with the driving,” CHP Officer Vince Bell said. “While
[the inattention] might not be against the law, it will cause drivers
to break the law.”
“They can’t signal,” Burbank Police Sgt. Bruce Speirs said,
referring to a typical driver scenario of one hand on the phone and
one on the wheel.
In 2001, New York became the first state to ban the use of
hand-held cell phones while driving.