Louisiana bill to ban handheld phone use while driving fails

Louisiana

Senators talk on the Senate floor ahead of a debate about Louisiana’s budget for the financial year that begins July 1, on Friday, June 26, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana senators Monday put the brakes on a bill that would have required motorists to use a hands-free device or speaker mode to talk on a cellphone while driving.

The proposal by Republican Rep. Mike Huval fell one vote short of passage in the Senate, getting only 19 votes instead of the required 20. The House earlier had voted 77-20 for the bill.

Huval, of Breaux Bridge, has tried and failed for years to ban handheld cellphone use while driving.

Supporters describe the legislation as a safety measure. Opponents question that premise and suggest the bill would violate personal freedoms and could put a burden on the poor by requiring them to buy new equipment.

State laws already prohibit texting or posting to social media sites while driving.

Huval wanted to extend that to prohibit manually using the phone in any way — with violators facing fines and, on a third offense, possible license suspension. People could still make calls through a wireless connection, earpiece, speakerphone or other devices. Exceptions would have been given to law enforcement and firefighters.

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