Drivers May Have to Hang Up and Drive

By  | 

1-5-07 In four states and Washington, DC, drivers are banned from talking on a handheld cell phone. Some state lawmakers want Texans to hang up and drive, and they've proposed legislation to make them do just that.

In Leah Stone's busy scheduble, she talks on her cell phone nearly every time she's in the car.

"I work full-time," Stone said. "I have a family because I'm trying to take care of things while I'm driving to work or getting home and running errands."

If a state bill is passed, Stone won't have that option. The proposed bill would ban talking on handheld cell phone, sending text messages, or using devices like a blackberry or laptop computer. Safety expert say the phones distract drivers, and could cause accidents.

"I've dropped it and you're trying to get it out of the floorboard or something like that," Stone said. "I've almost rear-ended people. You don't pay attention because you're into your conversation or don't pay attention driving like you should."

Other drivers say they recognize drivers who are on the phone and try to avoid them.

"Anytime you're on the highway and someone's going real slow and they're in the left land it's usually because they're talking on the phone," said Amy Neidert, an area driver. "The traffic just can't go on."

Cell phone providers say the industry has adapted to the laws with accessories like wireless headsets using bluetooth technology. They don't expect sales to slow down anytime soon.

"We've been gearing up for it, we're ready for it," said John Grigg, a local Verzion Wireless representative. "We're kind of anxious to see it happen, for the safety factor where cell phone don't get blamed for so many accidents on the road."

Drivers agree if the proposed law passes, they may be inconvenienced, but probalby safer when they drive.

If passed, the law will take effect in January 2008. The penalty would be a Class C misdemeanor, like a speeding ticket. Right now it's illegal for bus drivers, teens under 17 years of age, and drivers who have had a license less than six months, to talk on the phone while driving.