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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Lawmaker: For Safety's Sake, Ban Handheld Phone Use While Driving

(Photo by Ed Brown, some rights reserved.)
(Photo by Ed Brown, some rights reserved.)

A ban on using a hand-held cell phone to talk or text is not an infringement on personal freedom, according to the sponsor of a bill to ban the practice. Instead, Representative Virginia Court says her bill is about safety on the state’s roads and highways.

Representative Virginia Court says cell phones are necessary in an emergency. She adds Montanans love their freedoms.

"But does that freedom put others at risk? We have rules of the road:  speed limits, driving under the influence, stopping at traffic lights, road repair signs. Those don’t impact our freedoms," Court said.

But she says a ban on talking or texting on a hand-held cell phone while driving is an issue of safety.

Leona Schneemann of Forsyth says if there’s a ban on texting while driving and it saves the life of just one child it would be worth it. Her son Dustin was 17 years old when died in 2011. She says he was texting when his car went off the road and through a fence.

"I looked at the text message," Schneemann said. "Three letters ended my son’s life. LOL. That is all that he wrote."

There is no statewide ban regarding talking on a cell phone or texting. Instead various local governments have adopted their own ordinances.

Court says that makes Montana an outlier among the other states.

Opponents want the bill to be amended to include ham radio operators and tow truck operators to those who are exempt from the proposed law.

Mike Fellows of the Libertarian Party called the bill a revenue enhancer.

The House Judiciary Committee did not take immediate action on House Bill 297.

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