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Louisiana Senate distracted driving bill now heads to House

Louisiana State Sen. Patrick McMath (R-Covington) says drivers across the state shouldn’t unduly worry about a restriction underscored in a would-be law currently under consideration in the State Legislature.

That legislation – presently with the status of an approved Senate bill now moving over to the House – spotlights behind-the-wheel cellphone usage. McMath stresses that new law would not prohibit motorists from using their phones altogether when out in traffic.

“You can touch the phone,” McMath says. “You can still engage a call, you can still use your Siri, Bluetooth, headphones, all that stuff.”

If the bill (endorsed in the Senate by a 31-5 margin) is ultimately enacted as law, though, “all that stuff” will no longer encompass a motorist’s ability to support or hold a phone while driving. The legislation strictly provides for a hands-off scheme.

Such an outcome would more firmly align Louisiana with many other states that already make it a taboo for drivers to hold cellphones while negotiating traffic.

The stated rationale behind the legislation is multiple and obvious. Lawmakers are certain that a no-hands approach will decrease distracted driving, which is a sadly proven catalyst promoting adverse roadway outcomes.  And they believe that fewer accidents will both figuratively and literally drive down insurance costs across the state.

One ancillary reason for introducing the bill owes to police officers’ difficulties enforcing behind-the-wheel texting offenses, which McMath says can be hard to prove.

No such proof requirement exists with the new bill if enacted. Cops will be able to cite drivers for merely holding their phones while engaged in traffic.

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