Committee hears bill restricting cellphone use in cars |

Committee hears bill restricting cellphone use in cars

A bill that would ban texting and hand-held cellphone use while driving was heard by the Assembly Transportation Committee on Thursday.

Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Las Vegas, said the goal is to make drivers keep their eyes on the road and reduce distractions that cause accidents.

She said Senate Bill 140 wouldn’t take effect until Jan. 1, giving police and traffic safety officials time to get the word out to the public.

“Beginning Jan. 1, they would receive a citation,” she said, adding that the first citation would not be reported to DMV and, therefore, wouldn’t impact a driver’s insurance.

The measure has exemptions for emergency vehicles, utility vehicles and for people responding to a situation requiring immediate action such as reporting a medical emergency, accident or criminal activity.

Several committee members asked if there aren’t already statutes on the books to deal with distracted driving. Frank Adams of the Nevada Sheriff’s and Chiefs Association said there are.

“You can be pulled over for distracted driving,” he said.

But law enforcement has supported the legislation.

Traci Pearl of the Office of Traffic Safety said distractions fall into three categories. Visual are those that take the eyes off road, mechanical are when the hands are off the wheel and cognitive are “mind off driving.”

“Texting combines all three of these,” she said.

The measure would allow the use of hands-free cellphones while driving – similar to the California law. But Pearl said the evidence suggests hands-free cell conversations are just as distracting.

Using a cell phone while driving, she said quadruples the risk of an accident. With texting, she said drivers are 23 times as likely to crash.

Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Clark, said he was worried texting drivers would just put the phone down where it can’t be seen, forcing them to look away from the road completely.

“I’m afraid you’ll see that accidents increase,” he said.

Pearal said in studies in four different states including Washington and California, the number of accidents did spike in three of them.

The committee took no action on the bill, which has already passed the Senate.