A bill to legalize television screens on car and truck dashboards moved within one step of final approval Thursday on the same day that a proposed ban on hand-held cellphones while driving died.
The television screen measure, House Bill 243, won Senate Transportation Committee approval despite some concern that the screens could be traffic hazards.
Panel members munched popcorn while watching a brief video that demonstrated the screens.
The bill next faces action in the Senate and has already passed the House.
Meanwhile, the Louisiana House rejected an effort to prohibit drivers from using hand-held cellular phones while behind the wheel. The vote was 33 for the ban and 55 against it.
Backers said countless studies have shown that cellphones used while driving cause distractions that often lead to crashes.
But the bill failed by a wide margin since backers needed 53 “yes” votes.
Safety concerns were prominent topics in both debates.
The dashboard proposal, which was unveiled in 2010, is called “split-view” technology.
It allows front-seat passengers to watch a DVD or television program that cannot be seen by the driver, who sees an ordinary dashboard.
In essence, one screen projects two different images.
State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans and sponsor of the bill, said 38 states already permit the screens and bills are awaiting action by governors in four other states.
Committee vice chairman Sen. Dale Erdey, R-Livingston, quizzed Moreno about crash data in states where the screens are legal.
Erdey asked whether a “look at this” comment from a front-seat passenger watching the screen could distract a driver.
“I just wonder if we should adopt this until we have the data,” he said.
Moreno countered that the California Highway Patrol studied the issue in 2008 before officials concluded that traffic hazard concerns were unfounded.
She said the screens were legalized in California in 2009.
Mercedes-Benz is the only manufacturer that offers “split-view” screens now.
Ford, GM, Mazda and others are expected to do so soon.
Under current state law, video screens are illegal unless they are behind the driver’s seat.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Charmaine Stiaes, sponsor of the cell phone bill, told the House there is ample evidence to justify a ban on handheld cell phones.
“I agree there are other distractions while driving,” said Stiaes, D-New Orleans.
“I’m not addressing billboards or television screens in this bill,” she said.
“I am addressing the devices used by most of the drivers throughout the state of Louisiana,” Stiaes added.
She said similar bans have been enacted in several other states, including California, Connecticut, New York, Oregon and Washington.
One critic of the bill was state Rep. Barbara Norton, D-Shreveport.
Norton asked to exclude state representatives and state senators if the bill became law.
She said she uses a cell phone to conduct business in her car.
Stiaes disputed that suggestion.
“We have become slaves to our cell phones,” she said.
The legislation is House Bill 338.