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Lawmakers Want to Ban Cell Phones

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Once again, the state legislature is debating a measure that would prohibit Californians from using a handheld cell phone while driving.

Since 2001, similar bills have been introduced in the California Legislature but never passed. State Senator Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, is trying again for a law that would only allow drivers to use a hands-free cell phone while operating a vehicle.

"There is a readily available technology that will save lives." Simitian argues. "Why on earth wouldn't we use it? And that's all the bill does."

Salesman Bruce Dunbar buys into the idea. He is in his car most of the day and usually on the cell phone talking to customers. He says he's able to talk and write down information safely with the use of an earpiece cell phone.

"I do think it makes you safer," Dunbar says.

But the proposed law has its critics. Some point to studies that are inconclusive when it comes to hands free cell phones making driving safer. Another charge is that the bill doesn't address other driving distractions, such as personal grooming and pets in the car.

"If the legislature begins trying to manage every distraction that's involved in driving," says St. Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, "You're very rapidly going to find a society where driving becomes a bureaucratic nightmare."

Simitian's bill calls for a $20 fine for a first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses.

Senate Bill 1613 has cleared the Senate and is scheduled to be heard by the Assembly Transportation Committee next week.

(This story was provided by News10 KXTV Sacramento.)

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