Lawmakers propose bill that could make distracted driving illegal

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 5:30 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A bill could make it illegal for drivers to hold a cellphone in their hands while on the road.

Over in Ascension Parish at the intersection of George Lambert Road and Stringer Bridge Road, there have been 38 crashes in the last six years, some of them ended up being deadly. Parish officials say it’s happening because drivers are not paying attention.

“Nobody really wants to talk about distracted driving if a fatality occurs, nobody wants to say you know what one of my family members lost their life because they weren’t paying attention to when they were driving,” says James LeBlanc, who is the fire chief in Ascension Parish.

LeBlanc started a campaign geared to informing the public on the issues surrounding distracted driving. So far, they put up larger stop signs and even added flashing lights on signs to make them stand out to those behind the wheel.

“Distracted driving is everywhere, it’s not just Ascension Parish, it’s everywhere,” adds LeBlanc.

The issue is now racing to the capitol, where a bill would make sure drivers don’t have a cell phone in their hands while they are on the road. Lawmakers believe passing the plan would keep drivers focused on what’s going in front of them instead of what’s going on in the palm of their hand.

“First off if the bill is signed into law, there would be warnings until January 1 of 2022, just so that people know that there’s a law now that says you can not have a handheld device in your hand. Yes, on the bill there is a fine, of course. It’s also an opportunity to do community service in lieu of the fine,” says State Representative Mike Huval.

If caught, violators would have to pay up to $100 the first time, which would jump to $300 for anyone pulled over a second time.

Cell phones are not the only thing that distracts drivers, but lawmakers are hoping this will be a wake-up call for drivers to keep their eyes on the road. The law has passed the House floor and it passed through a Senate committee on Thursday, June 3.

In Ascension Parish, local leaders say they are putting up larger stop signs in other intersections, and hope folks will slow down and pay attention.

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