Minden Press-Herald

Oct 01st

Hand-held cell phone bill stalls in committee

1237163 782584695087134 1855265724 nLouisiana drivers won't face new limitations on cell phone use as an effort to prohibit hand-held use stalled in the House Transportation Committee Monday.

After facing widespread resistance, Republican Rep. Mike Huval, of Breaux Bridge, voluntarily shelved his proposal.

"For the general public, it would probably be a lot safer if people don't use cell phones in the car," Webster Sheriff Gary Sexton said. "But a cell phone is like a fork in a house — it's a necessary utensil."

Opponents said the measure arbitrarily picks on one type of distracted driving and criticized it as a "nanny state" bill. Rep. Terry Landry, D-New Iberia, said the measure seemed too broad.

"What about eating and putting on makeup?" said Rep. Terry Brown, I-Colfax, calling those just as dangerous on the road. "A lady hit me reading the newspaper."

The proposed law would have made using a hand held cell a secondary offense — meaning an officer could not stop a motorist for doing such but could issue a citation if initiating a stop for other reasons.

"We'd all be better off that we didn't use our cell phones while driving, but how in the world can that be enforced?" Sexton said. "The first thing you're going to do (if being pulled over) is put that cell phone down and (law enforcement) can't determine if you're talking or texting."

Texting and using social media on a mobile device is illegal in Louisiana.

Supporters of the bill said it would help reduce distracted driving and could help lower insurance rates.

"The statistics are pretty overwhelming. Anytime a person is manipulating a cellphone in the car, it's double or three times the regular risk of having an accident," said Louis Fey, with the Louisiana Property and Casualty Insurance Commission.

Fey said Louisiana has among the highest insurance rates in the nation, and he said reducing the risk of accidents by limiting cellphone use while driving could help cut those costs.

Press-Herald Reporter Kristi Martin and the Associated Press contributed to this report.






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