Legislation banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving passed the Louisiana House of Representatives yesterday.

With 55 members voting for the ban and 43 against, the lower chamber approved House Bill 852, which requires the use of hands-free devices, such as wireless Bluetooth. It was a narrow win, as a bill needs at least 53 votes for House approval.

According to today's Advocate, the bill was amended on the floor to make violators face fines of up to $250, depending on how many times they are pulled over.

HB852 allows for the use of handheld cell phones to call 911 in an emergency, in addition to a physician, fire department, ambulance or law enforcement authority. The ban also applies to text messaging, which critics say is 50 percent more dangerous while driving than talking on handheld cell phones.

Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, said he sponsored HB852 because state Highway Safety Commission statistics in 2007 showed that cell phone usage played a role in 2,285 accidents in Louisiana, causing 1,247 injuries and 10 deaths, including a 16-year-old.

The measure now heads to the Senate.


 

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