Bill to Establish Hands-Free Driving Regulations
BOSTON—The Massachusetts House of Representatives today overwhelmingly passed a bill that would prohibit the use of cell phones without the use of a hands-free device and ban the sending of text messages while driving.
The bill will make drivers’ use of cell phones without a hands-free device a primary offense punishable by fines ranging from $100-$500 for adult drivers.
“This is a bill that will save lives. When a driver uses a cell phone or text-messaging device, they take their eyes off the road and endanger other motorists. The House acted to safeguard drivers from these negligent behaviors and provide drivers an alternative way to stay in contact using hands-free devices,” said House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi (D-Boston).
“Limiting cell phone use while driving to hands-free technology is a common sense measure intended to enhance public safety. I believe that we will prevent accidents, and most importantly, save lives,” said State Representative Joseph F. Wagner (D-Chicopee), House Chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation and lead sponsor of the bill.
“Drivers attempting to use handheld cell phones or text message devices while also attempting to steer their vehicles are a danger to not only themselves but to others on the roads. This bill aims to eliminate that danger and stands to greatly increase the safety of our communities and our roads,” said Representative Sánchez.
Fines for violating the ban are $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense, and $500 for a third offense. For Junior Operators, who will not be allowed to use cell phones while driving at all under the ban, the penalties further include 60-day, 180-day, and one year license suspensions for each subsequent offense.
Drivers will be allowed to use one hand to activate or deactivate the phone, as well as initiate phone calls, under the law. All drivers will be exempt from the ban in case of emergency phone calls, and when pulled over out of all traffic lanes. Emergency personnel, including firefighters, ambulance drivers, and police, will also be exempted from this law at all times.
Under the legislation, if a driver is fined for using a handheld cell phone while driving, the offense will be considered a moving violation and insurance surcharge penalties will apply as of July 1, 2009.
The new law also includes a ban on television screens, DVD players, and portable video game devices that are viewable to the driver.