Thursday, April 7, 2005

Car cell-phone ban
put aside pending study

A Senate panel notes bans are
unpopular and require solid data

Lawmakers are calling for a study on the use of hand-held cellular phones while driving but have stopped short of banning the practice.

A Senate panel held a proposal yesterday that would have instituted a ban on using a cell phone while driving unless a a hands-free device is used.

The move means the proposal is likely dead this session.

Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa noted that most of the testimony on the bill was from cell-phone companies and others who opposed the ban.

"Usually when we are going to mandate or affect behavior, we have a whole slew of statistics and studies that have been done, because it's not an easy thing to tell people what they can and cannot do," said Hanabusa (D, Nanakuli-Makua).

"It may be, in fact, that there is going to be that kind of information for us next year, but at this point in time the chair doesn't see it and doesn't want to pass a piece of legislation like this based upon what we have before us," she said.

The move to hold the bill in committee was approved 4-1. Only Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland (D, Kalihi-Liliha) supported a ban.

Hanabusa instead suggested that lawmakers pass a resolution calling for a study of how driving habits are affected by cell-phone use.

Sen. Paul Whalen (R, Milolii-Waimea) recalled one study submitted to the committee indicating that a conversation -- whether on a cell phone or not -- is just as distracting as other driving habits such as eating or tuning the radio.

He said other laws on inattentive or reckless driving already cover such problems.

"Once again we are trying to nitpick things to death," Whalen said.

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