A proposal to ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving is all but dead in the Senate after it failed to emerge from the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Committee chairman Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, said the House version, which won strong bipartisan support, doesn't go far enough to address the overall issue of distracted driving. "Laws don't necessarily change behavior," he said.
"A number of us, including myself, have deep concerns about the bill and about whether it will accomplish what supporters think it will," Sears said Friday.
The measure requires drivers to use hands-free devices, such as Bluetooth, for cellphones while driving. The legislation originated as an attempt to help police enforce a similar ban on texting while driving. Law enforcement officials have testified that it is difficult to enforce the texting ban because suspects simply say they were dialing the phone.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, in its only hearing on the bill, H.62, focused heavily on other forms of distracted driving, such as applying makeup or reading. Sears expressed interest in calling in witnesses from other states to hear their experiences with distracted driving but no new hearings were scheduled.
Sears said his committee was tied up with other bills.
"The only one that really messed up my schedule was the fee bill," Sears said. "That means certain bills aren't going to make it, not just cellphones."
Gov. Peter Shumlin has opposed the bill, saying he, too, feels the entire spectrum of distracted driving should be discussed. Sears said there was no pressure from the administration to shelve H.62
H.62, breezed through the House on a 130-11 vote in February.