Las Vegas Sun

May 27, 2024

Lawmakers consider ban on using cell phones while driving

Cell phone ban

KSNV coverage of proposal to ban cell phone use and texting while driving, Feb. 22, 2011.

Shirley Breeden

Shirley Breeden

CARSON CITY — In the future, robot cars might traverse Nevada highways, but until then, lawmakers are considering a law prohibiting motorists from using cell phones while driving.

David Goldwater, a former assemblyman and now a lobbyist for Google, said engineers are working on self-driving autos. It may sound unbelievable, but it’s going to be the wave of the future, he said.

But for now, Goldwater told the Senate Transportation Committee, he supports SB-140, which would prohibit the use of cellular phones and other handheld wireless communication devices while driving.

State Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Las Vegas, the sponsor of the bill, said 30 states have banned the use of cell phones while driving. She noted the high incidence of accidents by distracted drivers.

Her bill would exempt fire, law enforcement, ambulance drivers and others involved in emergency situations.

Violations would be a misdemeanor. The first offense would be a $250 fine, the second offense a $500 fine and the third offense a $1,000 fine and a six-month license suspension.

The Nevada Highway Patrol presented statistics that there were 10 fatal crashes in Nevada in 2009 as the result of distracted driving. Distracted driving also accounted for 1,202 injury accidents.

Chris Perry, acting director of the state Department of Law Enforcement, presented testimony that motorists using phones are at four times the risk of causing a crash than other drivers. And drivers texting are at 23 times the risk of other motorists for causing an accident.

The bill got support from Paul Enos of the Nevada Motor Transfer Association, but he asked it be amended to allow truck drivers to use CB radios.

Opposition came from Orrin Johnson of the Washoe County public defender’s office who expressed concern that police might pull over a motorist for no reason except for glancing down at what might be a cell phone.

He said motorists could be pulled off the road without cause, which could lead to racial profiling.

Regarding robot cars, Goldwater said a bill is being prepared to create an operating class of driver’s license for this kind of technology. One of the cars already has been tested on Lombard Street in San Francisco, and the only accident was when it was rear-ended.

It was noted by some committee members that a robot car could cut down on drunk driving. Motorists who have had too much to drink could get in, set the computer and the car would take them home without touching the wheel.

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