VT Lawmakers Want To Limit Cell Phone Use While Driving

By Kristen Tripodi

Published 01/31 2014 06:26PM

Updated 01/31 2014 06:29PM

MONTPELIER, Vt.- State lawmakers are once again trying to pass a bill that would make it illegal for adult drivers to use a cell phone while driving without a hands free device. Something Governor Peter Shumlin has already said, he's against.

The House Judiciary committee heard the final round of testimony Friday and is expected to approve the bill early next week.

The bill has failed for a few years in a row and lawmakers hope this time will be different.

“It protects all Vermonters,” said Representative Maxine Grad, (D) Washington.

The bill she's referring to would ban the use of a handheld portable electronic device while driving.

“People are so tired of seeing somebody with a cell phone right at their head trying to make a turn. So I think that its time,” said Representative Grad.

The House Judiciary committee began hearing testimony at the end of last year's session and it finally wrapped up Friday.

“I feel that it is an important step in public safety is to restrict the use of cell phone while operating a motor vehicle,” said Tony Facos, Chief of the Montpelier Police Department.

“To look down at your phone and dial a number and kill someone; isn't that just as bad as having a couple beers and killing someone? I mean the result is the same right?” said Chris Maley, a lawyer out of Burlington.

Lawmakers say the Department of Public Safety had supported the bill in the past, but this time around Commissioner Keith Flynn is on the fence.

“I think the question that everyone has to ask themselves is, ‘have you ever been driving down the road yourself on the cell phone’ and had a 'that was too close of a moment for me'. So I think that’s part of the discussion that needs to be had,” said Commissioner Flynn.
It's already illegal to text while behind the wheel. And teens under the age of 18 aren't allowed to use any electronic device while driving. But Governor Peter Shumlin says he doesn't support broadening that law to include adults.

“You can't legislate common sense. And we all know it’s not smart to speak extensively on the telephone when you are driving.  And I don’t want to pass laws that are going to make Vermonters outlaws. I think a much better way to approach this is through education,” said Governor Shumlin.

When asked if he would veto the bill if it made it to his desk the governor said he wants to see it on paper first, before making a final decision.
Police officers asked to have the bill changed slightly to make sure they'd be able to use their cell phones at their discretion. Lawmakers granted that request.

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