Louisiana House agrees to ban handheld cellphone use while driving

Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana drivers would have to use a handsfree device or put their cellphones on speaker mode to talk on the phone while driving or risk a fine from police, under a proposal that won House backing.

Republican Rep. Mike Huval, of Breaux Bridge, has tried and failed for years to ban handheld cellphone use while driving. House passage Wednesday with a 77-20 vote sends the measure to the Senate for consideration.

“All we’re trying to do is promote safe driving,” Huval said.

Opponents questioned whether the measure would improve safety, and they suggested the bill would put a burden on the poor by requiring them to buy new equipment.

“A lot of people don’t have cars that have the ability to talk (on the phone) through the car,” said Rep. Robby Carter, a Democrat from Amite.

State laws already prohibit texting or posting to social media sites while driving. Huval wants to extend that to bar manually using the phone in any way, such as making or receiving a call, transmitting electronic data or reading online sites. People could still make calls through a wireless connection, earpiece, speakerphone or other devices.

Under Huval’s bill, exceptions to the hand-held cellphone ban would be made for law enforcement officers and firefighters while performing their duties.

Violators of the ban would face a fine of up to $100 on a first offense; up to $300 on a second offense; and up to $300 and a 30-day driver’s license suspension on third and subsequent offenses. The penalties would begin on Jan. 1.

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