AUGUSTA — A bill that would restrict cellphone use by drivers operating a motor vehicle to hands-free devices suffered a narrow but potentially temporary setback Friday.

The Legislature’s Transportation Committee voted 7-6 against the bill sponsored by Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, which also would bolster the state’s ban on texting while driving. However, at least one lawmaker in the majority, Sen. Ronald Collins, R-York, said he may end up supporting the bill when it comes up for a vote in the Senate.

Collins’ ambivalence was driven by the primary sticking points dividing the committee. Lawmakers were nearly unanimous in agreeing that using cellphones while driving, including texting and surfing the Internet, is dangerous and has increased accident rates. However, the majority of lawmakers worried that the bill would do little to solve the problem, while giving police too much authority to pull over and penalize drivers who were talking on their phones, but not operating their vehicle erratically.

Rep. Wayne Parry, R-Arundel, said if the proposal would help police enforce the state’s existing distracted-driving law and texting ban, he’d support it. However, Parry was uncomfortable giving police the authority to pull over someone simply for talking on the phone.

Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, cited data from AAA New England showing that using a cellphone hands-free results in only a minimal decrease in the risk of distracted driving. According to a 2013 U.S. Department of Transportation study, hands-free use may give drivers more confidence, but it still requires interactions with a cellphone that can be distracting.

“I worry that this bill doesn’t solve the problem we’re trying to solve,” Golden said.

Proponents of the bill, L.D. 185, countered that the state’s current ban on texting hasn’t deterred the behavior. Distracted driving was a factor in 8,000 accidents from 2011 to 2013 – including 41 fatalities, according to state records.

The Department of Public Safety listed distracted driving as a cause in over 2,000 collisions on Maine highways in 2014.

Lt. Brian Scott of the Maine State Police told lawmakers the proposal would strengthen officers’ ability to ticket motorists for texting. Right now, he said, police must be able to prove that a motorist is texting, rather than doing other activities that are legal, such as dialing the phone, adjusting the GPS or choosing music. Doing so can be difficult, Scott said, if a driver refuses to hand over his or her phone so the officer can determine if they were texting.

Scott cited enforcement and accident data to prove his point. Of the 2,179 traffic stops for distracted driving or texting in 2014, law enforcement issued 1,346 warnings and 833 tickets. That 62 percent to 38 percent breakdown in warnings and tickets would flip, Scott said, if police were able to pull someone over for using a phone not in hands-free mode.

Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, who sponsored the state’s first distracted-driving law in 2009 and helped push the texting ban in 2011, said the restriction to hands-free devices is an important step in preventing accidents.

Scott agreed.

“We would like to be proactive and take preventative steps before something disastrous happens,” he said.

Maine is one of 44 states that bans texting while driving. The penalties include fines from $250 to $500.

Katz amended his original bill to increase the penalty provisions, while including the potential for license suspensions for repeat offenders.

According to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the number of people killed in distraction-affected vehicle crashes decreased slightly from 3,360 in 2011 to 3,328 in 2012. An estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, a 9 percent increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011.

Distracted driving is a significant problem among young drivers.

According to federal data, 10 percent of the drivers under 20 involved in fatal accidents were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. For drivers in their 20s, the figure was 27 percent.

“I think we’ll have an interesting debate when this reaches the floor,” Katz said.

A separate bill sponsored by Rep. Anne-Marie Mastraccio, D-Sanford, would have Maine join 14 other states that ban the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving. Mastraccio agreed to support Katz’s proposal, meaning her proposal will likely die quickly when it reaches the floor of the House.