BATON ROUGE, LA — Representative Regina Barrow of Baton Rouge and her family have felt first-hand the danger of what happens when people are talking on their cell phone while behind the wheel.
"I was in an automobile accident with a young lady who admitted that she was on the cell phone and did not see that the light was still red when she actually plowed into the back of my car with me and my children in the back," says Representative Regina Barrow of Baton Rouge.
The accident inspired her to introduce House Bill 787.to the House Transportation, Highways and Public Works Committee today. If it becomes law, it would require all Louisiana drivers to use a hands-free device when driving their car. A police officer wouldn't be able to pull you over just for talking on your phone. But if you were pulled over for speeding, for example, and the officer noticed you were talking on your phone without a hands free device, you'd get a ticket.
"I believe that this is certainly a safety issue as we look at the number of accidents that have occurred," says Barrow.
According to the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission 52 traffic fatalities between 2005 and 2009 were directly tied to cell phone use. Right now it's only illegal for Louisiana drivers to text when they're driving. Barrow's bill did pass the committee nine to seven. That wasn't without strong opposition from lawmakers like Shreveport Representative Barbara Norton. She doesn't believe it's up to the government to decide what you can and can't do when you're driving.
"There are just so many things that are happening during the process of people driving and I think if we took cell phones, hand held cell phones away what are we going to do about all the other things that aer going on that are distractions while we're driving?," says Norton.
But Barrow believes the bill will reduce the chances that anybody will have to suffer the way she and her kids did.
"Having a hands-free device makes it a lot less probable for a person not being attentive while driving," says Barrow.