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N.Y. Assembly votes to ban handheld cell phones while driving



NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York is a step closer to being the first state to ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving.

The state Assembly approved the legislation 125-19 on Monday. The Senate passed it last week. Gov. George Pataki has said he will sign the bill.

"We hope the people have enough respect for the law (that) they stop doing it now because it is a danger," Pataki said. "It is a distraction."

For 30 days beginning November 1, violators will get a warning. As of December 1, they'll face fines of up to $100. The legislation would allow handheld cell phones to be used for emergencies.

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CNN's Jason Carroll reports on New York's plan to ban driving while talking on handheld cell phones (June 25)

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CNN's Allison Tom reports on technology that is making cell phone use while driving safer (June 25)

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Hands-free cell phones are acceptable under the new legislation.

The cell phone industry spent millions of dollars on advertisements opposing a ban, calling for education but not legislation.

Three localities in New York have enacted similar legislation. State lawmakers said they believe a uniform measure is needed to avoid confusion among drivers. Two dozen other states are considering similar measures, and federal legislation is pending as well.

The movement to ban handheld cell phones in New York took off in Brooklyn in 1996 when state Assemblyman Felix Ortiz saw a car crash involving a driver using a cell phone. Ortiz eventually sponsored a bill banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving.

The April accident in Atlanta, Georgia, involving model Niki Taylor was the most publicized recent example of a cell phone-related mishap. The driver said the crash occurred as he was reaching for his cell phone. Taylor remains hospitalized.

Mantill Williams, AAA spokesman, is opposed to all cell phone use. Williams said that "we strongly recommend, regardless of law" that people should not talk on the phone and drive at the same time.

"We have to be clear that going from a handheld device to a hands-free device does not eliminate the danger of talking on the phone while driving," Williams said.

Correspondent Jason Carroll contributed to this report.





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RELATED SITES:
• National Conference of State Legislatures
• National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
• Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association

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