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Push to ban drivers from using cellphones moves forward - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Push to ban drivers from using cellphones moves forward

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MONTPELIER, Vt. -

In previous years, a bill to ban drivers from using portable electronics behind the wheel faced a permanent red light in the Senate's transportation committee. But this year, chairman Sen. Dick Mazza signaled his support for the principle. Rather than stopping on the committee's desk, it appears headed for the governor's.

"He does not support this bill and he would ask that you not move it forward," said Robert Ide, the commissioner of the Vt. Department of Motor Vehicles.

Ide testified on his behalf, reiterating the governor's stance that common sense, not legislation, should lead drivers to put the phone down. But the committee isn't stopping. By taking testimony Friday, the measure made it further than ever before in Vermont.

"Did we want to be so restrictive in this bill that we would not allow people to touch the device?" said Rep. Mike McCarthy, D-St. Albans.

The committee's colleagues from the House brought the Senate Committee up to speed on the bill as currently written. Despite passage through the House, representatives say the line between what's banned and isn't is still a bit blurry. Ham radio operators argued for language explicitly exempting them from the law.

Lawmakers who already voted say they're open to seeing their work refined.

"There should be some accommodation made here. My guess is that we would be likely to accept your judgment on that," said Rep. Tom Koch, R-Barre.

Mazza says the time constraints will limit how long they can work on the measure.

If it receives strong support in the Senate, Vermont stands a good chance of becoming 13th state in the country to institute such a ban.

The governor has not said whether he would veto a cellphone and driving ban if it does indeed reach his desk.

Related Stories:

Vt. House advances phoning-while-driving ban

Will Vt. ban hand-held devices behind the wheel?

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