A divided House committee has advanced a bill that would prohibit teens from talking on the phone while driving.
Anchorage Democratic Rep. Berta Gardner’s HB128 would allow police to give citations only after someone has been pulled over for another violation.
The bill made it through the House Transportation Committee unopposed two weeks ago, but it narrowly cleared the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday on a 4-3 vote.
Republican Reps. Wes Keller, Bob Lynn and Lance Pruitt opposed moving the bill, saying it goes too far.
Keller said his vote was mainly because he believes the bill would help future prohibitions of cellphone use while driving, which has been a point of contention among legislators this year. Lynn said he opposed the bill because he feels that teens need to be treated like adults.
Gardner said both criticisms ignore the overwhelming safety concerns caused by distracted teen drivers. She said she fought a law requiring adults to wear seat belts, because she believes the risk is theirs to take.
“But it’s a different story when you’re putting other people at risk,” Gardner said, adding that she doubts broader bans of cellphone use while driving will find much support this session.
Judiciary Chair Carl Gatto supported the bill’s advancement through his committee, but he voiced reservations.
“We’re nibbling at the apple,” Gatto said “I hope we can come to agreement on the larger issue.”
The bill is ready for a floor vote.
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