Sen. Freedman & Sen. McKinney Propose “Hands-Free” Talking While Driving Legislation

May 23, 2003

Senator Judith G. Freedman (R-26) and Senator John McKinney (R-28) on Friday said they will continue their efforts to pass legislation that specifically bans the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.

The Senate on Thursday passed legislation, now awaiting further action by the House, that imposes penalties for “distracted driving.” However, the Senate rejected an amendment offered by the two senators that would have specifically required drivers to use “hands-free mobile telephone” devices while driving, except for emergencies.

“The distracted driver bill, while a good piece of legislation, would be much more effective if it specifically banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. Holding a cell phone in one hand while driving with the other is distracting, and dangerous to everyone on the road. Passing this legislation would have sent everyone a clear message to equip their cell phones with one of the very inexpensive and easy-to-use hands free devices on the market, or risk getting a ticket,” said Senator Freedman.

Senator McKinney said he became a sponsor of the legislation because of his experience with a hands-free cell phone device..

“I spend a lot of time on the road driving between my home in Fairfield and the Capitol in Hartford, and I depend on my cell phone. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to use these hands-free devices. And, I know that I am a better, less distracted driver now. When you consider how inexpensive and easy-to-use these devices are, it makes sense to have one. Requiring drivers to use one while talking on their cell phone is an important public safety measure that does not impose a burden on anyone,” said Senator McKinney.

The amendment proposed by Senator Freedman and Senator McKinney called for making it an infraction, subject to a $75 fine, to use a hand-held cell phone while driving. However, drivers would not be penalized for using a hand-held cell phone in the event of an emergency or under certain other, specific, circumstances. The legislation passed by the Senate and awaiting further action by the House calls for imposing a $75 fine for committing certain types of moving violations while engaging in distracted driving, which is defined as engaging in any activity not related to the actual operation of the vehicle that interferes with its safe operation. The legislation makes exceptions for emergency situations and other, specific, circumstances.