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Ackerman pushes to end cell phone use in cars

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U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) has joined forces with U.S. Sen. John Corzine (D-N.J.) to introduce federal legislation banning the use of cellular phones while driving.

Ackerman and Corzine were each slated to introduce their own bills in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate last week.

Several New York counties — including Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk — have passed laws forbidding the use of cell phones while driving with the goal of preventing automobile accidents.

Ackerman’s bill, titled CRASH, or Call Responsibility and Stay Healthy Act, would allow drivers to use their cell phones if they have devices that permit hands-free dialing or answering of the phone.

Under the proposed CRASH legislation, cell phone calls would have to be made or answered with voice-activated technology or while a driver is stopped or pulled over. The bill would allow an exemption for emergency calls.

Corzine’s version of the legislation would allow states to determine the question of whether or not drivers should be required to use hands-free devices. If both versions of the bills are passed, the differences between the two would be ironed out in a conference committee, Ackerman said in a news release.

“While legislating this behavior will not end all cell phone-related accidents, at least it’s something,” Ackerman said. “If it saves one life or prevents one serious accident, the measure is worth it.”

Corzine said “just a few seconds of distraction while talking on a cell phone can mean the difference between safety and peril, between life and death.

City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis), candidate for borough president, said he presented legislation banning the use of cell phones while driving in the city in several months ago but the effort was not successful at the time.

Gov. George Pataki recently announced he would pursue a statewide ban on driving while using a cell phone.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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