Bill to ban use of handheld cellphones, other devices heads to full La. House of Representatives

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Published: Mar. 21, 2022 at 7:19 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A bill to ban hand-held cellphone use advanced to full La. House of Representatives on Monday.

Supporters say lives are being lost because of drivers who are focused on texting and watching videos while driving.

Rep. Mike Huval, R-Breaux Bridge, is sponsoring House Bill 376.

“I’ve seen so many drivers that are either speaking on the phone, texting, looking at Netflix whatever,” said Huval.

Huval is making another attempt to ban handheld cellphone use and the use of other wireless telecommunications devices like computers to text, post to social media, or view videos while driving.

Some lawmakers pointed to tragic outcomes of such actions by drivers.

“There was a guy killed right by my company’s office there out from Fort Polk. He was running 65 mph on a four-lane highway and run up under the bus with a busload of kids, you know, thank God nobody was killed but him,” said Rep. Wayne Schamerhorn, R-Hornbeck.

However, under the bill, the ban would not include devices or components that are permanently attached to a vehicle or devices used hands-free.

Language in the legislation says, “Wireless telecommunications device shall not mean include any device or component that is permanently affixed to a motor vehicle…It does not include a hands-free wireless telephone.”

Lt. Brian Lee of La. State Police answered lawmakers’ questions about the legislation.

“The way this bill is currently written the violation is if the phone is in your hand, so if you have that phone in your hand and it’s not affixed to the vehicle in some type of suction cup or holder, then you’re in violation of this law,” said Lee.

Rep. Joe Marino, I-Gretna asked, “So, if I put my phone in a cup and text away I’m not breaking the law?”

Lee responded, “For an officer to be able to stop you, he would just have to see you with that phone in your hand.”

And under the proposed new law it wouldn’t be necessary for law enforcement to see the contents of the phone the driver is caught using.

“There’s no need to see the contents anymore. Once the officer observes the phone in your hand, you’re in violation of 32:300.5,” said Lee.

Current law already prohibits the use of cellphones in school districts, still, a question was raised about law enforcement possibly being distracted.

“If an officer, he can see if you’re missing a taillight, he can see if you’re swerving, he can see if you’re speeding, if he’s focusing on somebody’s hand next to their ear that in itself is a scary proposition for me, that’s creating a hazard where the officer could cause a wreck,” said Rep. Mack Marcel Cormier, D-Belle Chasse.

Also, the bill requires officers issuing citations to record the race of the driver because of racial profiling concerns.

“Information is gathered and they can actually identify whether or not racial profiling is being used to give the tickets for this,” said Huval.

The bill has the support of police chiefs and some insurers. Jennifer Smith of said two dozen other states and the District of Columbia have similar laws.

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