State drops plan to ban hand-held cell phone, seat belt laws

By Gene Petriello - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - We've all seen it on the roads, people talking on their cell phones and probably distracted. It's possible you've thought to yourself, I wish that person would get an earpiece. But, this is one device you won't have to dish any dough out for, at least not for the next year.

Sharmain Harris isn't hiding the truth: she uses her cell phone when she's behind the wheel. But she's glad the state decided to stop a bill that would ban talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving.

"It might be an emergency phone call dealing with your kids from school that you need to answer your phone!" says Harris. But, she thinks ear pieces would help.

Meanwhile Richard Waddy is tired of the phone distraction. "You sitting there talking on your cell phone, not aware of what's going on around you and the next thing you know, there's an accident," says Richard.

Speaking of accidents, the state also stopped short in allowing troopers to pull you over just for not wearing your seat belt. For at least the past five years, similar ideas have failed as well, losing millions of dollars for the state.

Another defeat for a frustrated Martha Meade with AAA. "Every year we don't pass a primary seat beat law, we turn away $16.5 million dollars in federal funding. That's very difficult for us to understand in a year where we are having budget difficulties," says Meade.

"That's safety guidelines that might help you save your life if your in an accident,' says Harris.

In fact, with a primary seatbelt law in Virginia, 70 lives could be saved and more than 1,000 serious injuries avoided.

But no luck for buckling and hanging up this year. Now, you'll have to deal with those distracted drivers on the road at least until next year when this issue may pop up again.

We're told one of the reason for the seat belt defeat is that the government here in Virginia does not want to tell you what to do in your own car.

The subcommittee in the House that defeated these two bills, also defeated a movement to make talking on a cell phone a primary offense if you are driving with a provisional license.

Currently, you can only be issued a citation for not wearing a seat belt if you are pulled over for something else.

The subcommittee did vote to proceed with a law that would force anyone under the age of 18 to wear a seat belt in the back seat of a car. Right now, only those under 16 are forced to wear seat belts.

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