Lawmaker urges public to put down phones while driving


Rep. Edmund Villagomez (Ind-Saipan) recommends that the public let go of their mobile devices while driving.

In an interview with Saipan Tribune, the House of Representatives minority leader said in the aftermath of Gov. Ralph DLG Torres vetoing his House Bill 20-8, HS1, SD1, which banned the use of cellular phones while operating a motor vehicle, that the governor brought up “good points.”

“[Torres] did bring up some good points and when it comes to the law, language is very important,” he said, adding that there was a “big difference between ‘may’ and ‘shall.’”

“If definitions are not clearly defined in the law, it is up for challenge.”

Villagomez said that a similar bill was introduced during the 19th Legislature and was instantly killed at the committee level, however despite having his bill vetoed, the message of practicing safety on the road remains.

In talks of a reintroduction, Villagomez responded that Torres’ recommendations would be taken seriously and that the bill “may have to be looked at again just to make sure that we are all in line.”

In H.B. 20-08’s transmittal letter dated Nov. 22, 2017, Torres vetoed the bill in its entirety citing the need for revisiting the bill’s “restrictive language.”

He said that the lack of considering the inclusion of a provision in the bill that exempts emergency medical responders on official duty was a primary reason.

“This express exemption is necessary for the purpose of granting our medical responders with the tools they need to effectively carry out their duties,” Torres wrote in the letter.

Torres also believed that using the terms “cellular/mobile telephones narrowly describes” a huge selection of mobile gadgets that include other means of inputting text or calling, such as tablets.

“The Legislature should also consider expanding the restricted use of ‘cellular/mobile telephones’ to include the other uses of these devices along with talking and texting, such as taking photos, snapchatting, reading or reviewing emails and electronic documents, or even using Facebook, which are all features widely used on mobile devices today.”

According to Torres, although public safety is an “important government objective,” he stands firm in advising the Legislature to re-discuss the language of the H.B. 20-8.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.

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