Lt. Gov. Phil Scott confers Friday with John Bloomer, Senate secretary during Senate floor action.
A motor vehicle bill passed both the House and Senate easily this session, yet it was still lingering Friday as legislators were scrambling to adjourn for the year. The catch: whether drivers should be able to pick up their smartphones and text or check their email while stopped in traffic.
The Senate said no. The House, yes. Friday afternoon, the Senate won.
A House-Senate conference committee reached agreement on a change in the law that says as of July 1, drivers may not use hand-held electronic devices even while stopped in traffic, a loophole that slipped through last year’s hand-held cellphone ban.
“If we’re going to ban texting, why not do the whole thing?” said Sen. Dick Mazza (D-Grand Isle), chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. “To me, it’s more dangerous at intersections to check your phone, because people are crossing the street.”
Drivers will be allowed to use devices if they pull completely off the road or if they are stopped in a drive-through or a parking lot, Mazza said. “If they want to text in the drive-through of McDonald’s and the car’s not moving, that’s fine,” he said.
House conferees unsuccessfully argued that it can be safer for drivers to have the option to check their phones at a stoplight rather than be tempted to check while driving.
Both chambers signed off on the agreement Friday night, sending the bill to Gov. Peter Shumlin.