Connecticut would become the third state to prohibit drivers from using hand-held phones, under a bill that has been given final legislative approval by the state Senate.
The Senate voted 32-4 in favor of the ban and sent the legislation to Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who was expected to sign it into a law that would take effect Oct. 1.
The bill was first introduced in 1999 but stumbled in the Senate over the years. But because of new technology — phones can now send videos, play music and send e-mail and text messages — a top lawmaker gave the bill unexpected momentum this year when he changed his mind.
“Many of you know two years ago I was one of the strongest opponents of this bill,” said Sen. Billy Ciotto, D-Wethersfield, co-chairman of the legislature’s Transportation Committee. “The cell phone that I knew two, three years ago is no longer the cell phone I know today.”
When the bill was first introduced, there were 500,000 cell phones in use, lawmakers said. Today, there are more than 2 million. Connecticut would join New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., as the only areas in the country with bans on the use of hand-held phones in automobiles.
Opponents have said that there is flimsy evidence that cell phones are causing more accidents, and that education — not legislation — is the way to deal with poor driving habits. Some lawmakers wondered why the legislation specifically singled out cell phones.
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