Bill would tighten cellphone restrictions on teen drivers

Members of the Senate Transportation Committee were supportive during Thursday’s hearing of a bill to further restrict cellphone use while driving by persons under age 18.

Those over 18 could still use the phone for voice communications as long as it was through a hands-free device. Senate Bill 216 would bar that even with such an accessory in the vehicle. Chairman Mark Manendo and several members of the panel expressed support for any reasonable efforts to reduce cellphone use by drivers, especially teens.

But Sen. Kelvin Atkinson said while he supports efforts to reduce cell use while driving, he’s concerned about the blanket authority given to law enforcement to determine whether to stop a vehicle because the driver “appears” to be under 18. He pointed out he was carded for being under 21 until nearly 30 years old.

“When I was 21, I looked 15,” he said.

“With the community I represent, I have to speak out,” he said. “They fear being profiled.”

Atkinson’s district includes a significant percentage of people of color.

He also said the proposed $100 fine is “a big deal” in less affluent communities.

But other members including Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, and Patricia Farley, nonpartisan-Las Vegas, expressed doubt a $100 fine would deter many young people. She said many parents would “just write the check.”

Hammond said he thinks better education about the dangers of driving while on the phone need to be discussed because, “I think the kids do not realize how quick the accident can happen.”

Farley said it might be better if the ticket hit the family’s insurance rates.

Hammond, however, agreed Atkinson has a legitimate concern about how officers would determine when they should stop some one.

The committee took no action on SB216.


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