DENVER - A ban on driving while using a hand-held cell phone won initial approval Monday in the House of Representatives.House Bill 1094, by Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder, would slap a $50 fine on drivers caught using a hand-held cell phone. The fine would double for a second offense.
Levy and her allies say it's a matter of safety, not personal freedom.
"Your individual decision does not just affect you. It affects every other driver on the road," Levy said.
Proponents brought up an accident last November in Fort Collins, when 9-year-old Erica Forney was killed on her way home from school by a driver talking on a cell phone.
But opponents said the bill is inconsistent because cell phones aren't the only things that distract drivers, and hands-free cell phones can be just as distracting.
"We're playing favorites with certain distractions that we all have when driving our car or truck," said Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch.
He grew up with five brothers and sisters, he said.
"I can guarantee you we were more of a distraction than talking on a cell phone," McNulty said.
Levy, however, said cell phones are the most common and dangerous distraction.
"Just because we cannot make the roads completely safe doesn't mean we shouldn't address the leading cause of driver distraction," Levy said.
The bill makes exceptions for emergency vehicles, drivers of large commercial trucks and anyone reporting an emergency.
Drivers younger than 18 would be banned from using any type of cell phone.
Analysts for the Legislature expect police to write 10,250 tickets through next July if the bill passes, based on Connecticut's experience with a similar bill.
A final vote in the House could come as soon as today. After that, the bill would go to the Senate.