Cell Phone Bill Given Green Light: Does it Do Too Much or Not Enough?

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

A bill that would put the brakes on teens using their cell phones and adults texting while behind the wheel is on it's way to the Governor's desk. Some say the ban goes too far, but others say it doesn't go far enough.

Stella Forney says for the longest time, she didn't think twice about picking up her cell phone while she was cruising down the road. But now, after a tragic turn of events, she says she doesn't think twice about leaving it on the seat.

"My little granddaughter gave the ultimate price and our lives will never be the same," said Forney.

Last November, 9-year-old Erica Forney was killed after being hit by an SUV. Authorities say the driver was talking on her cell phone and not paying attention to the road when she ran into Erica's bike. So when Forney and her family learned a bill that would drastically limit cell phone use in cars was making its way through the State Capitol, they were relieved. But that relief turned into frustration.

When House Bill 1094 was first introduced, it included provisions that would make it illegal for drivers under 18 to talk, text, or do anything else with their cell phones while they were driving.

It also would have made it illegal for drivers 18 and older to use their cell phones behind the wheel, unless they had a hands free device, like a blue tooth. But that provision was scrapped by the State Senate.

"I'm very disappointed the legislature didn't pass this," said Forney.

The final version of the bill, which was passed on the last day of the legislative session, had a watered down provision that only made texting illegal for adult drivers -- and continued to allow them to use cell phones without a hands free device. The cell phone ban for teens, however, remained in tact.

"I'm glad they restricted the teenagers, but the adults are just as guilty," said Forney.

Teen drivers say it's just for that reason that the bill goes too far --

"I think it's pretty unfair," said Gage Crowe, a teen driver. "The reason why is probably for safety, but I've seen people that are thirty-five drive worse than me when they're on their cell phones."

-- and that having their cell phones with them while they drive is a good thing.

"You've gotta know what's going on," said Crowe. "If your parents need you -- you just need one."

Forney says she hopes to change these attitudes about talking and driving -- and regardless of what the bill does or doesn't do, she hopes everyone remembers her granddaughter the next time they hear their phone ringing in the car.

"Leave it on the seat," said Forney. "Her life or anyone's life is not worth that two seconds of distraction."

Officials say Governor Ritter has indicated he will sign the bill into law. If he does, the new law would go into effect December 1, 2009.

Under the bill, anyone caught violating the new cell phone rules will be stuck with a $50 -$100 fine.


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