Bill to Curb Conn. Drivers’ Cell Phone Use on Gov. Rell’s Desk

June 7, 2005

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.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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