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New bill would prohibit cell phone use while driving

Cell phone showing apps

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — An Administration bill to restrict the use of wireless electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle except for emergency calls was introduced in the House this week. The bill is sponsored by Vice Speaker, Hon. Fetu Fetui Jr and was transferred to the House DPS Committee chaired by former Deputy Commissioner, Rep. Avagafono Vaimaga Maiava for review.

The summary states that more than 9,000 motor vehicles are registered in American Samoa (AS) and as traffic volumes increase on AS’s roadways, distracted driving presents and significant danger to the public.

Studies have shown that using a mobile phone while driving increases the risk of collision four-fold, and that driver impairment while using a mobile phone is equal to that of driving with a blood alcohol content in excess of 0.08 percent.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stated that using a mobile phone while driving can pose a serious cognitive distraction and degrade driver performance and this bill all promote highway safety and protect individuals by restricting the use of wireless electronics devices while operating a motor vehicle.

The bill creates Section of 22.0335 and is titled, “Use of cell phones while driving”.

It reads that while operating a motor vehicle on any highway in AS, no individuals shall “physically hold or support with any part of his or her body, a wireless communication device,” however, such exclusion shall not prohibit the use of an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct voice based communications.

The bill also states that writing, sending, or reading any text-based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or internet data on a wireless telecommunications device is prohibited, however, such prohibition shall not apply to “a voice-based communication which is automatically converted by such device to be sent as a message in a written form, or the use of such device for navigation of such vehicle or for global positioning system purposes.”

Other exceptions include the following:

Reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, and actual or potential criminal or delinquent act, or road condition which causes an immediate and serious traffic or safety hazard.

By an employee or contractor of a utility services provider acting within the scope of his or her employment while responding to a utility emergency.

By a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, ambulance driver, or other, similarly, employed public safety first responder during the performance of his or her official duties.

While in a motor vehicle which is lawfully parked or stopped in a place that does not obstruct traffic.

The bill shall become effective 60 days after the end of the session at which it has been passed.