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Jaros will continue push for cell phone regulations for drivers

State Rep. Mike Jaros said he intends to modify his legislation to ban all cell phone use while driving to a measure that would prohibit only hand-held cell phone use when behind the wheel. The legislation would be similar to a law passed in New ...

State Rep. Mike Jaros said he intends to modify his legislation to ban all cell phone use while driving to a measure that would prohibit only hand-held cell phone use when behind the wheel. The legislation would be similar to a law passed in New York in 2001.
"There is ample evidence already showing that drivers talking on cell phones are more likely to get in an accident -- or at least cause one," said Jaros, DFL-Duluth. "No matter how cautious or observant you are, talking on the phone simply diverts too much attention away from driving to make doing both simultaneously a safe practice."
He cited a 1997 New England Journal of Medicine study that showed cell phone-using drivers are four times more prone to accidents than those not on the phone -- nearly the same risk as driving drunk.
At least 14 countries and a number of municipalities have banned cell phone use while driving. The New York prohibition on hand-held cell phones took effect Nov. 1. First-time violators face a $100 fine, a second conviction draws a $200 fine, and subsequent violations cost $500. The law allows for emergency calls, speaker phones and CB radios.
At least 39 other states are considering similar legislation.
In an attempt to document the effect of cell phone use on accident rates, Minnesota state troopers now ask drivers involved in accidents whether they were talking on a cell phone as part of their routine investigation. However, there is no way of knowing whether the driver is telling the truth, so the statistics are relatively useless, Jaros said.
"While most cell phone manufacturers and their lobbyists insist that common sense -- not legislation -- is the answer to cell phone use while driving, my own observations while driving suggest that the problem has gotten much worse as cell phones have proliferated," he said. "It's time to put a stop to this menace on the roads."
Jaros introduced legislation in the 2001 legislative session to ban all cell phone use while driving, but the bill was never given a hearing. He noted that Verizon Communications, a telecommunications company, supported his proposed legislation.

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