U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) yesterday announced the legislation in the House and Senate.
"Accidents and near collisions are occurring all over our nation because too many drivers hold the wheel with one hand and their cell phone in the other," Ackerman said.
Ackerman's bill would allow the use of hands-free phones using earpieces or speaker phones. Calls would have to be placed or answered by voice activation or while the driver was stopped. Corzine's bill would leave the decision of whether to allow hands-free phones up to the states.
Both bills also allow each state to impose their own system of penalties, whether they be fines and or points on the driver's license. States that fail to implement the ban would lose a portion of their federal highway funds.
The proposed law is patterned after similar measures pending in 40 states including New York and New Jersey. Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester Counties in New York and Carteret and Marlboro townships in New Jersey have already passed legislation that prohibits driving while talking. However, so far not a single state has passed such measures. Connecticut, which so far has been the closest, got its bill through the House but not the Senate, where it died earlier this month.