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franklin county times

40 states consider cell phone bans

By Staff
DISTRACTION Mississippi is one of 10 states where a ban on using cell phones while driving is not under consideration. To date, New York is the only state to ban drivers from using them. Photo illustration by Carisa McCain/The Meridian Star
By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
June 30, 2001
New York Gov. George Pataki signed the first statewide ban on using hand-held cell phones while driving Thursday, but local law enforcement officials and legislators may not embrace such a law for Mississippi.
According to information from the National Conference of State Legislatures, bans have been proposed in 40 states.
Some New York legislators favor a broader "distraction law" over banning hand-held cell phone usage while driving. The author of the new law says he will push for a law that prohibits even hands-free cell phones. Legislators in Connecticut are considering a distraction law that prohibits using hands-free cell phones, eating, tuning the radio and reading while driving.
Law enforcement
Sollie said any distraction law including cell phone bans would be difficult to enforce.
Banning cell phone usage would also limit information authorities get from the driving public, he said.
The sheriff said the toll-free numbers encourage citizens to report suspected criminal activity and emergencies.
He said many public service employees including emergency personnel and power company employees also use radio communication, which could be described as a distraction.
Legislator's viewpoint
State Sen. Terry C. Burton, D-Newton, said the first time he considered a ban on cell phones was after a student in the Youth Legislature introduced it this past year.
He said if such a bill were introduced in the Senate, he would have to consider the ramifications and determine what effect it would have on safety and communication.
Following the issue in New York, Burton said he heard one man comment that it is an "intelligence type of issue," because people can't talk on the phone and drive at the same time.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com. The Associated Press and www.wired.com contributed to this story.