action came despite strong opposition from a group of
industry spokespersons and a fair amount of skepticism from
committee members about whether the ban would be effective.
Representative Joseph Miro, the bill's primary sponsor, agreed
that it did not cover the most critical point in the operation
of a telephone -- dialing. He said he would agree to a 'friendly
amendment' to address that aspect.
insisted several times during testimony at a committee hearing
on Jan. 17 that the measure that his proposal would
significantly improve highway safety. "We've all observed
drivers on the road using cell telephones. ... There are 120
million individuals who now have them and 40% say they use them
while driving," he said.
presented a witness, Charles Carter, who said he is "still
suffering the pains" as a result of injuries received when a
woman dialing her cell telephone plowed into his stopped car on
Interstate 95, instigating a four-car pileup.
Miro's proposal received its strongest support from his
colleague, Representative Richard DiLiberto, who told the
committee he was aware of at least one highway fatality in
Delaware in which use of a cell phone was the proximate cause.
DiLiberto, a lawyer, said he represented the family of a Sussex
County woman pedestrian struck and killed by a car driven by a
young man. The driver initially blamed the accident on brake
failure, but it later was learned that he was talking by
telephone to a friend about a rock concert at the time.
conversations frequently include "emotional involvement" which
is considerably more likely to produce a higher level of
distraction than other activities such as eating or changing
stations on a radio, DiLiberto said.
drew support from Thomas Curran, director of public policy for
Verizon Wireless, who testified said that the bill "is the right
approach" to dealing with the issue. In addition to permitting
use of devices which do not require holding the telephone, the
law, if passed, would not go into effect until January, 2004,
and would allow cited drivers to avoid paying the $50 fine by
presenting evidence they had acquired remote-use devices.
industry group, which represented several other companies in the
cell telephone business, testified that existing state laws --
in Delaware and elsewhere -- are sufficient to deal with
inattentive driving and that the industry is involved in an
educational program to promote "responsible use" of the
Miro agreed that "cell telephones
[have become] an integral part of life" but disputed the
effectiveness of educational efforts. He said he visited several
companies "as a customer in the market to buy a telephone"
before deciding last autumn to introduce the legislation "and
not one of them said anything to me about safety on the road."