CONCORD, N.H. — Hand-held cellphone use should be treated like driving drunk and should be banned in New Hampshire to save lives, safety officials and others told a Senate panel Tuesday.

Assistant Safety Commissioner Earl Sweeney told the Senate Transportation Committee that drivers could still use hands-free phones, devices built into the vehicle and two-way radios.

Sweeney compared the distraction of driving and talking on a cellphone held to someone’s ear to driving drunk.

“During the horse and buggy days, no one worried if you were drunk because your horse wasn’t,” said Sweeney.

Sweeney said government has a responsibility to enact laws that protect people who are driving impaired whether from drinking alcohol or talking on a cellphone.

Opponents argued the proposal goes too far, would be difficult to enforce and could lead to more restrictive laws.

“What’s next? Is it cigarettes? Women doing their makeup or hair?” asked Al Baldasaro, a Londonderry Republican.

Twelve states prohibit drivers from using hand-held cellphones and 41 states ban text messaging, according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Council.