PROVIDENCE, RI — Verizon Wireless announced today that it would support State Rep. Peter F. Kilmartin's "hands-free" legislation in Rhode Island to promote the responsible use of wireless phones in vehicles by motorists.
At a press conference today Rep. Kilmartin discussed the benefits of his bill for the citizens of Rhode Island. Dan Mullin, director of State Public Policy for Verizon Wireless, was on hand to support Kilmartin in his announcement.
Verizon Wireless supports Rep. Kilmartin's hands-free legislation that incorporates the following criteria:
- It recognizes the safety value of wireless devices; in 1999, for example, more than 118,000 calls were made daily across the country to 9-1-1 from wireless phones.
- It explicitly exempts emergency calls.
- The state law ensures complete uniformity across Rhode Island.
- Similar to the seat-belt law, this hands-free legislation has a three-year "phase-in" period, to allow consumers to upgrade their handsets to ensure hands-free capability, and to provide handset manufacturers additional research and development time to make hands-free capability more widely available at a lower price.
- The state law assesses penalties equivalent to current distracted driving infractions.
At the press conference, Mullin presented the company's Responsible Driver Action plan that emphasizes Verizon Wireless' commitment to ensure responsible driving practices by customers and employees. This plan includes:
- Requiring handset manufacturers to produce wireless phones with voice-activated dialing and a universal jack to enable connection with an assortment of headsets;
- A display panel entitled "Accessories With Safety in Mind" in all of the company's 1,400 stores across the country by year-end to showcase available hands-free equipment; the company's 3 Communications Stores in Rhode Island already have this in their locations.
- Incorporating a responsible driving component in company advertising, customer communications and on its website;
- Training sales and customer service teams about the importance of promoting hands-free devices;
- Providing new employees who operate company vehicles with a defensive driving course and a refresher class every three years.
- Supporting legislation at the state level to require the use of hands-free devices while driving.
"Enacting state-wide hands-free legislation would eliminate the confusion that would result if municipalities adopted a patchwork quilt of ordinances that would be difficult to enforce," Mullin said.
About Verizon Wireless
Verizon Wireless is the largest wireless communications provider in the U.S. with 27.5 million wireless voice and data customers. The new coast-to-coast wireless provider was formed by the combination of the U.S. wireless businesses of Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp -- now Verizon Communications (NYSE:VZ) -- and Vodafone (NYSE and LSE: VOD). The new company includes the assets of Bell Atlantic Mobile, AirTouch Cellular, GTE Wireless, PrimeCo Personal Communications and AirTouch Paging. The company has a footprint covering nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population, 49 of the top 50 and 96 of the top 100 U.S. markets. Verizon Wireless, headquartered in Bedminster, NJ, is 38,000 employees strong. Reporters and editors can find more information about the company on the Web at http://www.verizonwireless.com.