DENVER (AP) — Colorado drivers would have to use a hands-free device to use their cellphones under a bill being considered by state lawmakers.

The bill would make it illegal to use a handheld cellphone to make calls or use apps while driving. The traffic infraction would be punishable by a $50 fine for the first offense and a $100 fine for the second. The bill makes exemptions for emergency calls.

Lawmakers will hear the proposal in a House committee on Wednesday.

Twelve states and the District of Columbia ban the use of handheld cellphones while driving. Colorado already prohibits texting while driving, along with 40 other states.

Democratic Rep. Jovan Melton, the sponsor of the bill, said he’s heard concerns from his Aurora constituents about drivers distracted by their cellphones.

A 2013 study from Colorado State University, conducted from April 28 through May 4, found that 15.6 percent of drivers were distracted. Researchers observed more than 24,000 drivers during the study, which covered 12 counties in Colorado. Talking on cellphones was the top reason for distraction and texting was number three. Drinking and eating ranked second.

During the previous year, there have been 515 citations in Colorado for texting while driving, according to legislative analysts working on Melton’s bill. The law took effect in December 2009.

Like with the texting ban, using a handheld cellphone while driving would be considered a secondary offense, meaning that law enforcement could issue a citation for using a cellphone only if a driver was stopped for something else first.

By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer (© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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