House bill bans cellphone use while driving in construction zones

HELENA — A bill in the Montana Legislature would make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving through a work zone.

Between 2015 and 2019, the Montana Department of Transportation reported about 1,000 car crashes in work zones — 14 of them fatal. 

House Bill 237 is sponsored by Rep. Denley Loge, R-St. Regis, who said at a committee hearing Monday that the legislation is aimed at bringing those numbers down.

“The time you would lose, or the inconvenience you may lose through that work zone is not worth somebody’s life,” Loge said.

The bill’s six supporters pointed to construction worker’s safety rather than motorists.’ 

Gabe Priebe of the Montana Department of Transportation spoke in support of the bill. 

“You know there just isn’t enough room for a margin of error on this,” Priebe said. “So for the safety of MDT employees and for the safety of contractors, I would ask you to support this.”

If the bill passes, Montana drivers would still be able to use CB radios and hands-free devices while driving through work zones. 

Workers on the job would still be able to use their cell phones while driving. But, Chairman Barry Usher, R-Billings, said he thought the law should apply to everyone.

Loge told the House Judiciary Committee he sponsored similar bills in 2017 and 2019 that did not become law. 

James Bradley is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Montana Newspaper Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.