Bill banning bus drivers, minors from using cell phones passes House

Bill banning bus drivers, minors from using cell phones passes House

PROVIDENCE - The House of Representatives last week approved a measure that would ban school bus drivers and minors from talking on cell phones while driving.

Sponsored by state Rep. Raymond Johnston Jr. of House District 61 in Pawtucket, on behalf of the state Department of Transportation, the legislation specifically prohibits school bus drivers from using a "personal wireless communications device" while transporting children, except in the case of an emergency.

Minors would also be prohibited from utilizing a cell phone or any other personal wireless device while operating a motor vehicle, with the same exception.

The House passed the bill in a 69-0 vote and sent it to the Senate for consideration.

Johnston said the legislation also clarifies that "operating on a public road, including operation while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic light or stop sign," is considered "driving" under the law. The ban on cell phone use would not apply to those pulled over to the side of or off an active roadway in a location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary, according to a news release.

"Previously, I think there was some confusion about when one could text in those scenarios, and this legislation makes it clear that even if you're at a stop light, you should not be texting," said Johnston. "It is still dangerous. One delayed reaction or distracting glance can mean the difference between whether someone lives or dies. My bill will bring our statutes up to snuff with federal guidelines while instituting extra protections for our youth.

"More importantly, it leaves no room for loopholes with a broader description of banned wireless devices and a clarification as to the definition of 'driving,'" he said.

State Rep. Raymond A. Hull, of House District 6 in Providence and North Providence, cosponsored Johnston's bill.