Three words that killed hand-free driving bill in Virginia

Three words that killed hand-free driving bill in Virginia
Under the compromise agreed to by the small group, drivers would still be able to hold a phone to their ear to carry on a phone call, a concession to skeptics.

Ultimately, three words led to the downfall of hands-free driving legislation that lawmakers hoped would finally allow police to crack down on widespread use of phones while driving.

Legislation banning drivers from holding a phone for any reason passed the House.

And it was poised to pass the Senate when an apparently innocent amendment was tacked on to specify the exact appendage lawmakers were hoping to target, inserting the words “in his hand” before the word “hold.”

It was the beginning of the end.

The House rejected the Senate’s tweak.

A group of lawmakers from each body was assigned to work out the differences.

And then they came back with a very different piece of legislation.

For one, the lawmakers eliminated the hands-free part of the bill.

Under the compromise agreed to by the small group, drivers would still be able to hold a phone to their ear to carry on a phone call, a concession to skeptics, including, Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, who said the original proposal went too far.

“Texting, reading texts, dialing numbers by hand, scrolling through your phone book – all of that is clearly the kind of behavior that we need to eliminate,” he said. “But talking on your phone is functionally no different than eating a hamburger in your car.”

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.