Holding a cell phone while driving may soon be banned.

Holding a cell phone while driving may soon be banned.

Currently, the United States is a patchwork of laws regarding cell phone use while driving: You can talk here, you can't text there, you must be in park or neutral to use your phone there. If a bill in the U.S. House eventually becomes law, that patchwork will be superseded by a federal standard. The crux of the proposed law is this: You won't be able to hold your phone while driving, except in case of emergencies.

Introduced by Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.), the Safe Drivers Act of 2011 would create a national standard for laws regarding cell phone use.

Hands-free devices would remain legal, but the Department of Transportation would be directed to study whether talking on the phone at all poses a danger.

The DOT would be given two years for the study, and if the findings indicate that simply talking on the phone--even with a hands-free device--is dangerously distracting, that could bring about even more severe restrictions, which could put a crimp in automakers' plans to offer ever more advanced infotainment and communications systems.

McCarthy cited figures that showed that 5,400 people died nationwide in 2009 due to distracted driving. The Governors Highway Safety Association says nine states currently ban drivers from holding cell phones while driving to make calls and 34 ban text-messaging while driving.

[Detroit Free Press]