One influential Illinois legislator said Tuesday that a statewide ban on the use of cell phones by individuals driving, whether they are hands-free or not, "might be inevitable."
State Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) told the State Journal-Register that "there's no question it's a distraction from driving."
"There's not a big difference between whether you’re holding a phone or whether you're not holding a phone," Cullerton continued. "It's the distraction in talking to someone that’s not in the car with you. It's not what's in your hand, it's what's in your head."
Cullerton's comments echo the concerns of the National Transportation Safety Board which, last month, recommended that states move to ban both hands-free and hand-held cell phone use while driving.
A researcher with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety told the AP that such a ban does mesh with some scientific findings.
"There is a large body of evidence showing that talking on a phone, whether hand-held or hands-free, impairs driving and increases your risk of having a crash," Anne McCartt, the institute's senior vice president for research, said.
Still, CNNMoney reported last month that research has yet to prove whether a reduction in cell phone use by drivers correlates with a reduction in car crashes.
Either way, Cullerton told the Journal-Register that he will not be sponsoring such a statewide ban in the new year, pending more data on what impact such a law would have.
Illinois has, for two years, banned texting while driving as well as talking on a cell phone in construction zones or school zones without a hands-free device. In the city of Chicago, a ban on hand-held cell phone usage while driving has been on the books since 2005.
Driver safety has been a popular issue for the state legislature as of late. On Jan. 1, a new state law banning large truck and bus drivers from using their cell phones while driving, unless they utilize hands-free devices, went into effect in Illinois. Another new law required adults sitting in the back seat of a vehicle to wear seat belts, making Illinois the 26th state to approve such a law.
Nine states already ban hand-held cell phone usage by drivers, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, but no states have yet to pass an outright ban on hands-free devices, too.