What Mass Drivers Need to Know About the Hands-Free Driving Bill
House Speaker Robert DeLeo is confident that the Hands-Free driving bill will pass this year. The bill would make it illegal for drivers to hold their phones in Massachusetts, with the goal of reducing the number of distracted driving accidents, and ultimately, saving lives.
How Serious of an Issue is Distracted Driving?
- Distracted driving causes nearly 300,000 injuries and 3,000 deaths on U.S. roads each year.
- Approximately 9 Americans are killed in distracted driving accidents every day.
- There were nearly 5,000 car crashes in Boston in 2018, resulting in 10 deaths.
What Would Drivers Be Fined?
If the bill passes, drivers who hold their phones for any reason, including to send or read a text message, scroll through social media or make a phone call, and are caught by law enforcement would be fined. The fine for the first offense is $100, and increases to $250 and $300 for the second and third offenses. However, there are exceptions for using a phone in an emergency situation.
What is the Status of the Bill?
The bill has been approved twice in the Senate during the last two sessions, but it has not been approved in the House of Representatives. It is reported that once the budget is approved, the Senate will review the bill in June. Governor Baker has announced his support for the bill earlier this year, along is one of several driving safety reforms.
Is There a Distracted Driving Law in Effect Now?
As reported in an earlier blog, currently there is a Distracted Driving Law, which passed in 2010. This law makes it illegal for drivers to send or read text messages, even when stopped at a red light.
However, this law has been difficult to enforce, as under the current law, adults can still talk on a phone while driving. Only drivers under the age of 18 and drivers of public transportation vehicles are prohibited from making phone calls.
The new bill addresses a wider-range of cell phone distractions other than texting in an effort to deter drivers from using their cellphones. Ideally, the bill could help eliminate risky driver behaviors in order to avoid accidents and potentially save lives.
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