New York State Takes Phones From Hands of Driversgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Unk's Wild Wild West : One Thread
Tuesday June 26 6:39 AM ET
New York State Takes Phones From Hands of Drivers
ALBANY, N.Y. (Reuters) - New York state became the first in the United States to prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while driving when its Legislature voted overwhelmingly on Monday to pass a ban that Gov. George Pataki is expected to sign into law quickly.
The New York State Assembly voted 125-19 after 2-1/2 hours of debate to bar the use of hand-held cell phones by drivers except in emergencies. Advocates of the measure called phoning while driving a potential cause of traffic accidents, although there is only anecdotal evidence for their position.
The state Senate adopted the measure, which is to go into effect on Dec. 1, last week. Pataki, a Republican in his second term, has said he supports it for safety reasons and will sign the bill soon.
Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, a Democrat from the Bronx who was the key sponsor of the bill, said, ``I am pleased that we are addressing a vital issue that relates to both public safety and quality of life, requiring drivers to use phones equipped with hands-free devices.''
``We want drivers to keep both hands on the wheel and maintain their concentration, concentrating on driving and road conditions,'' said Ortiz, who had introduced a ban every year since 1996.
Opponents had argued that the issue was one of personal responsibility and did not call for legislation.
While 35 other states have similar bills pending, none has passed. Nearly a dozen foreign countries forbid the use of cell phones by drivers, including Israel and several in Western Europe.
COUNTIES HAD ALREADY ACTED
Two large suburban New York counties, Suffolk County and Westchester, already had bans, prompting state lawmakers to push for action. A ban was also under consideration by the New York City Council.
Polls show that New York state residents heavily favor the new measure.
Violations will bring a $100 fine and a traffic ticket. Police will issue warnings for 30 days before the law goes into effect in December.
The new law will affect some 6 million cell phone users, who will have to purchase hands-free devices such as a speakerphone, a headset or voice-activated dialing to use their phones while driving. The devices can cost anywhere from about $15 to hundreds of dollars.
``All of this technology will be built in next year,'' said Howie Waterman, a spokesman for Verizon Wireless, one of the largest cell phone providers in the nation.
Waterman applauded the governor for pushing for statewide legislation, ending county-to-county confusion.
``This bill is a good model for the rest of the country because it is statewide, requires hands-free devices and exempts emergency calls,'' he said.
From Dec. 1, 2001, to Feb. 28, 2002, drivers ticketed for the first time will have their fines waived if they purchase the hands-free equipment and present a receipt in court.
The law will require police to report any accidents in which cell phones are implicated. Currently no statistics are available.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 26, 2001
Rush Limbaugh is having a field day with this. He's used the phrase "cell phone Nazis" more than once.
-- not a (fan@of.Rush), June 26, 2001.
It's funny that we even need a law for this. There are existing laws which could apply like "failure to pay full time and attention to driving". It's good though. This young woman almost hit me a couple of weeks ago while she tried to negotiate a right turn with a phone in her hand. She didn't get the car turned far enough and ended up on the wrong side of the road. I would have hit her head on if I hadn't hit the brakes. She didn't even see me until she heard the brakes and the honking.
-- Buddy (email@example.com), June 26, 2001.
Thursday June 28 2:51 PM ET
New York Bans Drivers Using Hand-Held Cell Phones
By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Gov. George Pataki signed Thursday the nation's first state-wide ban on using hand-held cell phones while driving, saying the practice of driving with one hand on the wheel and the other on the phone posed ``an enormous threat to public safety.''
Sitting next to family members of people who died in traffic accidents caused by drivers who were talking on cell phones, Pataki signed the bill which the state Legislature passed overwhelmingly on Monday.
The measure, which goes into effect on Dec. 1, slaps drivers with a $100 fine and a traffic ticket if they are caught using a hand-held cell phone will driving.
``They're a great tool,'' Pataki said at the outdoor ceremony in Manhattan. ``But they also ... pose an enormous threat to public safety,'' he said. Driving ``requires the full attention of the driver.''
The new law will affect some 6 million cell phone users, who will have to purchase hands-free devices such as headsets or speakerphones to use their phones while driving. The devices can cost anywhere from about $15 to hundreds of dollars.
A potential loophole however permits drivers to dial their cell phones while driving, another potential distraction. Pataki said the bill's effects would be studied to determine whether it needed to be strengthened in the future.
Polls show that New York state residents heavily favor the new measure, which was also supported by Verizon (NYSE:VZ - news) Wireless, the nation's largest wireless communications provider.
Some 35 states have similar bills pending but none has passed. More than 20 countries forbid the use of cell phones by drivers, including Israel, Japan and several in Western Europe, officials said.
Joining Pataki and other state officials at the bill signing was Patricia Pena, whose 2-year-old daughter Morgan was killed in 1999 in a traffic accident when a driver who was talking on a cell phone ran a stop sign.
``Officials here in New York have heard and responded to the voices of their constituents,'' said Pena, who called for support of a Senate bill that recommends other states adopt similar bans.
Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, a Democrat from the Bronx who was the key sponsor of the bill, said the new law ``is a matter of ensuring public safety and better quality of life for all New Yorkers.''
``We are saving lives,'' said Ortiz, who introduced the ban every year since 1996. ``Few took me seriously the first time,'' he noted.
Three large suburban New York counties, Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau, already had bans, prompting state lawmakers to push for action. A ban was also under consideration by the New York City Council.
From Dec. 1, 2001, to Feb. 28, 2002, drivers ticketed for the first time will have their fines waived if they purchase the hands-free equipment and present a receipt in court. The law will require police to report any accidents in which cell phones are implicated. Currently no statistics are available. Enforcement would be similar to that of seat belt laws, officials said.
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 29, 2001.