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March 3, 2002

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SACRAMENTO – Assemblyman Joe Simitian’s bill to require cell phone users to use hands-free technology while driving has passed out of the Assembly Transportation Committee. Assembly Bill 45 passed out of Committee 14 to 5, with 1 abstention.
“After falling one vote short the past two years, I’m pleased we’ve taken the first step to saving lives on California roads and highways,” said Simitian. The Palo Alto Democrat attributes this year’s success to a growing mountain of evidence that holding a cell phone while driving is inherently dangerous. Most recently, a study by the California Highway Patrol found that cell phones were responsible for more distracted driving accidents than eating, smoking, kids, pets, and personal hygiene all combined.

“We’re talking about thousands of accidents and billions of dollars in damage, in addition to the loss of lives,” noted Simitian. “We’ve had to wait for the data to tell us what common sense made clear – it’s safer to have two hands on the wheel than one, particularly when you’re distracted by a cell phone conversation. Now that we know that empirically, I hope we can move quickly to start saving lives,” continued Simitian. The bill is next headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

If AB 45 becomes law, California will be only the second state in the country to require hands-free use of cell phones by drivers. New York was the first state to implement the requirement in 2001. More than 20 countries in Asia and Europe also place restrictions on the use of cell phones by drivers.

Simitian’s previous efforts were kept bottled up in the Transportation Committee – the victim of aggressive lobbying by many of the wireless companies, include AT&T Wireless, Sprint PCS, and Cingular Wireless. Verizon Wireless, however, has supported the measure for the past two years.