Alaska Legislators File Bills to Ban Use of Cell Phones While Driving
Supporters said Tuesday they hope this is the year lawmakers ban drivers from using a cell phone to make or take calls while driving.
JUNEAU - Supporters said Tuesday they hope this is the year lawmakers ban drivers from using a cell phone to make or take calls while driving.
A trio of bills would prohibit or restrict the practice. Rep. Cathy Munoz, R-Juneau and co-sponsor of one measure, said the plan addresses concerns raised previously by commercial truckers - it would let drivers use a hands-free device and would exempt emergency calls.
Munoz said she wants to collaborate with other supporters, including Rep. Max Gruenberg, D-Anchorage, to ensure a final product works for all involved.
Another version comes from Rep. Mike Doogan, D-Anchorage, who unsuccessfully pitched a ban last year. He said Munoz' standing in the majority party could help the legislation advance.
A legislative analysis of last year's proposal said every expert interviewed and every study reviewed justified the ban.
Eight other states, including Oregon and Washington, have approved similar bans, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. An analyst cited in last year's study likened the trend to the wave of seat belt laws a half-century ago: "It took some time to educate the public, and for people to change their habits, but eventually most did."
A ban on texting while driving went into law in September 2008. Three people in Fairbanks have been charged under that law, including a man involved in a head-on collision this weekend on Phillips Field Road.
Munoz, a mother, suggested the bill represents low-hanging fruit - an easy step that can be taken to make it safer to drive.
"I've heard from several constituents in the interim who are interested in the subject and want to see a cell phone ban," she said.
House leaders have assigned the bill to three committees, but Munoz said she hopes Finance Committee leaders will waive it past their watch.
Rep. Lindsey Holmes, D-Anchorage, said the bill could attract more debate than some expect.
"Getting all 60 of us on the same page ... is going to be an interesting discussion," she said.
Contact staff writer Christopher Eshleman at 459-7582.