Sunday, June 03, 2001

Cell phone ban musters little support

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — A bill that would ban most cell phone calls by motorists has been introduced in the Legislature, but chances of its passage appear unlikely.

        “I don't think we have the evidence to justify a statewide ban,” said Rep. Rex Damschroder, R-Fremont, who is chairman of the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee.

        “But what would be prudent would be to start having the Highway Patrol collect data and maybe launching a campaign promoting safe cellular phone use through the Department of Public Safety.”

        The bill was introduced last week by Rep. Katherine Barrett, D-Cincinnati. Similar bills introduced by Democrats the past two years failed to gain approval.

        The bill would forbid using a cell phone while driving, except to call authorities for help or to report an accident or traffic violation. Also, it would require the Highway Patrol to compile monthly statistics on accidents caused by drivers using cell phones.

        The bill has no support from majority Republican leaders, is opposed by the telephone industry and lacks organized support.

        The patrol said that last year, about 2.5 percent of fatal vehicle crashes in Ohio were caused by inattention, including eating, applying makeup, using a cell phone and other activities.

        Lt. Gary Lewis, a patrol spokesman, said the patrol considers cell phones a resourceful tool for motorists when used properly.

        Sprint spokesman Rick Yocum said phone companies oppose the legislation.

        “We feel like we're being singled out as one particular activity of things that happen in the car when there are many, many far more distracting things,” Mr. Yocum said. “Some people get distracted putting a CD in or disciplining their children.”

        Police in the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn, one of the first cities in the nation with a ban similar to the one proposed, have issued more than 400 citations since it took effect nearly two years ago.


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