Ban hand-held cell phone use while driving?

Please see also this successor post in which I do come down in favor of the ban.

Next week, the Senate will vote on a proposal to ban use of hand-held cell phones while driving. As a frequent cyclist, I am a “vulnerable road user” and do live in fear of distracted drivers.   But I am not sure how I’ll vote yet.

Current law already prohibits texting while driving.  Fines start at $100 and go up to $500 for a third offense.  Current law allows the use of hand-held phones by adults “as long as 1 hand remains on the steering wheel at all times.”  Junior operators (those under 18) are already fully prohibited from using mobile devices while driving.

Under the proposed new law, the following acts would become violations punishable by fines if done by the operator while on an area of the roadway intended for travel (except in emergencies).

  • Using a mobile electronic device except in hands-free mode.
  • Touching or holding a mobile device  “except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function.”
  • Inputting information by hand into a GPS device.
  • Holding a mobile device in “immediate proximity of one’s head” — presumptively a violation, i.e., the police can pull you over if they see the phone near your head.

In a court of law, the words “initiate a feature or function” would probably be read to allow dialing a phone, but the proponents appear to believe that they are prohibiting dialing — this language may need some clarification.

There appear to be conflicting findings on the issue of whether hands-free phones are actually safer than hand-held phones. It does stand to reason that dialing a phone manually is as dangerous as texting, especially if it involves looking up a contact. One federally funded study, completed in 2013, found that the visual/manual tasks associated with hand-held phones were associated with increased risks, but that talking on a phone (hand-held or otherwise) does not, per se, elevate risks.

By contrast,  a AAA study released around the same time, found that conversation by phone, whether hands-free or hand-held, degrades driving performance. Also, a finding from the first study was that many hands-free phones require visual-manual tasks to initiate calls, so they can create many of the same risks created by a hand-held phone.

It may be that we should go further and just ban non-emergency calls.  It would certainly be conceptually cleaner, given the vagueness of what “hands-free” means.  I advocated a full ban in our last go-round on this issue in 2010. The National Transportation Safety Board came out for a full ban in 2011, but no other state has gone so far.

Given that a limited ban targeting hand-helds favors people with the means to acquire better phones, enforcement of it will certainly fall more heavily on communities of poverty and there is the perennial problem of differential enforcement against people of color.

And are we focusing on the right issue?  Isn’t it just as dangerous to eat a meatball sub in a suit while driving?  There are a lot of ways we let our guard down. Data from the federal Department of Transportation suggest that roughly 10% of fatal crashes involve distraction of some kind, but only 14% of that 10% (i.e., 1.4% of fatalities), involved the use of cell phones.  And how many crashes have been avoided because someone had successfully put an address into a navigation system and was following the voice commands rather than fumbling with a map?

Finally, the law will remain difficult to enforce.  People will learn to use the speaker phone and keep their hands below the window line.  Ironically, dialing covertly, they may run greater risks.  I’m not sure it is wise to add more unenforceable laws to the books — the police are already stretched too thin to stop people from running red lights.  I haven’t seen before and after studies suggesting that passing laws like this leads to reduced fatalities.

The most important thing may be to continue to remind drivers about the dangers of allowing themselves to be distracted in any way, including driving while fatigued.

Despite these reservations, I remain unsure how I’ll vote. Passing a law like this, flawed as it may be, may be part of the education process that we need and it does stand to reason that it is a good thing to reduce visual-manual interactions with devices while driving.

I’d really like to hear from folks on this one.

Please see this successor post in which I do come down in favor of the ban.

Let’s continue the conversation there. I’ve closed comments on this thread (after reading carefully through all of them, believe it or not), but we can keep the conversation going in the successor post.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

298 replies on “Ban hand-held cell phone use while driving?”

  1. I appreciate (a) the quandary and (b) the thoughtful approach you are taking to this. I likewise do not have a firm or fixed opinion on this matter.

    My husband is a frequent cyclist to his job in Cambridge, and I worry every day about what might happen to him. Just today I accepted a non-emergency call while driving in an unfamiliar area and made an absent-minded entry into a round-about. Fortunately nothing bad happened, but I was appalled that I did this and have resolved to be much more careful going forward.

    Perhaps the right answer is to gather more information before making a final decision. I’m not sure it helps to have another essentially non-enforceable law on the books, and I am a big believer in avoiding unforeseen or unintended consequences. If anyone could demonstrate that this law would save lives, then I fully support it. It not, then you should probably vote no.

  2. I think cell phone use should be banned. Too many drivers think they can multi task while driving. Not safe.

  3. Hi Will – as always, you do a great job of listing the pros and cons. I think for one as you describe it, it’s unenforceable and therefore a waste of time and money.

    Personally, I can’t imagine driving now without using google maps or similar service. Moreover, I would argue that there’s a material difference between texting — which takes a lot of attention — and talking.

    I see as much if not more distraction fiddling for music and in general on the now integrated settings / atmosphere management systems in cars (e.g. the infamous iDrive). With more new cars deftly integrating smartphone connectivity, I think this is wasted effort (will you ban all activities on bluetooth-connected phones?) and I’d rather we focus on something else.

  4. I support this law – it’s not that there is an object in your hand (the meatball sub), but the distraction factor. As a frequent passenger, all I ever see are people on their phones. Traffic caused by people texting and not being observant of red lights turning green, people swerving into your lane before fully checking on the highway because they’re talking and holding a phone, the list can go on forever.

  5. I believe that a total ban except in the case of emergency is best, there are too many sources of distraction that lead to accidents. Eliminating cell phone calls will prevent accidents without having to discriminating against any age group. I would not weaken the law because the evidence on how distracting a cell phone is in not definitive.

  6. I think having a law that is next to impossible to enforce is not smart. I believe that rather than making cell phone use while driving illegal, The state should consider changing the distracted driving law so that there are increased penalties for people who drive badly while on the phone. I have seen people drive Slowly, wander out of lane, stopping while having the right of way; all should be considered distracted driving. Secondly, traffic enforcement is not a priority with most police departments because the fines all go the courts. I would make an change so that a distracted driving fines, 20 or 30 percent goes to the town that enforces it and the rest to the court. Finally, I would require that Cell phones networks, block a device’s phone and text function of a user under the age of 16-18 or 21 if the device is moving faster than 15 MPH to prevent underage drivers from the temptation of driving and texting or Driving and talking.

    1. on Further reflection, I think that the phone Networks should block for all users the Text function if the device is moving faster than 15 MPH. Phones have a GPS and know if they are moving. When the phone stops moving the text messages can be downloaded to the device or uploaded. This would enforce the text while driving ban.

    2. “Finally, I would require that Cell phones networks, block a device’s phone and text function of a user under the age of 16-18 or 21 if the device is moving faster than 15 MPH to prevent underage drivers from the temptation of driving and texting or Driving and talking.”

      What about passengers? No way to tell if the phone is being used by a driver or a passenger.

  7. Will,
    Something must be done now. It is getting so that everyone has a phone in their hands, texting checking mail, etc. this is so very dangerous and getting worse every day. pLease!!

  8. PLEASE vote to ban cell phone use while driving! It is the most dangerous distraction to drivers!!!

  9. I saw a research study that convinced me that any kind of distraction leads to slower reaction times in a car and that the distraction contributed to accident-related slowness EVEN WHEN THE DRIVER WAS AWARE OF IT. I think one only needs to 1) want safer roads and 2) look at the research to conclude that cell phones should be illegal when driving.

  10. Driving for a prolonged period with one hand devoted to a different task that is absorbing your attention seems more mechanically risky than many other things mentioned. Also so many people use cellphones that the risk is more prevalent than eating meatball subs while driving. Dialing and inputting GPS instructions is distracting, but for a much shorter period of time. I support a ban of having a device held to your ear with one hand while driving.

  11. Will,
    Please vote against this overly vague, hard (impossible?) to enforce fairly and a waste of the police’s time and efforts. The threat does not warrant the restriction on civil liberties in my own car.

    Now if the insurance industry will give me a deep, deep discount on not using my phone in the car, then I might be all for my personal restriction of my phone use but that would be my choice.

    I hope this helps you decide for personal liberty.

    Thank you.

  12. Any step to reduce distracted driving should be taken. Disproportionate burden on lower income demographic is a red herring. It’s just not safe to be using a cellphone while one drives.

  13. I am not familiar with the studies that have been done. I can only comment on what I have seen as a driver. In general my impression has been that people with hand held cell phones are very distracted when driving. Not only do they have only one hand on the wheel but They are also partially focused on holding the phone to a specific location. I also think having a voice going directly into the ear elevates the distraction even greater. Drivers with hand held phones seem
    to be oblivious to red lights, cross walks and
    other drivers.

    I think if your going to be on the road your car needs to be safe and you need to be operating it safely as well. That benefits everybody who is driving, walking or biking.

  14. Please vote for this ban. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. When I drive, I seem to be one of the few not using a cell phone.

    Judy Otto

  15. Hi Will,
    I use the cell phone in the car, and I know it degrades my driving performance. I would encourage you to support a law that prohibits the use of cell phones in a moving car.

  16. I think it’s a sound choice to vote in favor of this law. As the rules stand now with one hand on the steering wheel, that’s one hand to text, one hand to change the radio, one hand to modify your gps. With more and more distractions, some even required for the ride share industry, it keeps your hands on the wheel and focus on the task at hand. Sometimes the flaws in the bill is just the culture shifting before us.

  17. I feel it is too intrusive. This would mean police are in a moving car trying to look into another moving car. There may end up being more accidents between those two cars. I have enough problems changing the car radio stations. Would that be banned? Would telling small small children to be quiet in the back seat be a problem? I think Public safety announcements as are on TV now would be very effective. As you said police are already stretched. We would all need a personal policeman . Nobody is perfect. These are teachable moments. We will not be able to walk without without some kind of fine pretty soon.

    I would not favor a new law. Looks unenforceable.

  18. Don’t think eating a meatball sub is a reasonable comparison to a phone conversation and I suppose we could say the degree of distraction is consistent with the nature or the emotional content of of the call. I can understand that you are conflicted and I agree that I don’t like to add to reasons drivers can be pulled over by police. But I cringe when I see drivers using their cellphones. Just seems very dangerous so I support this law, and as you suggest, it can be part of the education process that we need to deal with this and future tech devices.

  19. Hey Will, I appreciate your discussion of this issue. And I get the concerns. But I think a message needs to be sent about distracted driving in general. I don’t think we’ll ever be able to ban most things that drivers opt to engage in – and phones, as ubiquitous as they are now – are not going away. But laws against handheld devices are the best we can do for the moment, and will drive technology toward safer options. I agree with your last statement – it’s really the best we can do.

  20. Ban them! I don’t know why this hasn’t been done earlier. I am a very active and defensive pedestrian. Seen it many times when a car blows a red light or some other infraction and the driver is talking on a cell phone and does not seem aware of what they just did. Oblivious.

    I noticed the MBTA has posted signs near the outdoor Green Line tracks in Brookline Village telling riders to look up from their cell phones when crossing the tracks! That tells you how distracted people are when on their phones.

  21. I am a transplant from California. I find MA drivers appalling, in general. I believe a hands-free ban would be appropriate, and it has worked well in CA.

    There are many times I have been in dangerous driving situations, and lo and behold, the driver is holding a phone. I am all for _increasing_ safety. There is simply no reason that a driver cannot pull off the road into a parking lot or similar to initiate or answer a call.

    If you have not watched the Warner Herzog documentary “From One Second to the Next” on how many lives can be shattered by texting while driving, you should. This is an easy call. Vote to ban.

    Again, please vote to ban. Thank you.

  22. Ban use of cell phones. In all of the issues raised there are dangers of inattention. One second can be disastrous. How about the one action we can all take? Pull over for a minute, or wait until you park, or are off the highway to dial, talk, text. It’s a habit. It takes time to break from a habit. We sometimes need to be saved from our self-destructive selves which might hurt others, too. Here’s a link to a short video. Please watch it. What a difference a second makes.

  23. I agree with the proposal . It’s more dangerous than purposeful speeding . I.e. The driver is focused and reading the road ahead rather than dawdling and not paying attention to his or her surroundings.

  24. If we are not 100% sure we are focusing on the right issue, and there is convincing evidence that we aren’t (that cell phone use is a small slice of the distracted driving pie), then it seems premature to go enshrining this tiny remedy into law, particularly with the other arguments against it, like the problem of enforceability. I stand against this bill.

  25. I do not support a ban on all cell phone use while driving. I do agree texting should not be allowed.

  26. The only part that seems enforceable is prohibiting holding mobile device near your head. Adding hands free phone systems to most cars is not practical. I would favor an encouragement to be stopped to dial phone or set up GPS. Can’t prohibit adjusting most dashboard controls.

  27. Whether I think the call is important or not, I never answer, nor do I look to see from whom the call is from until I either reach my destination or I pull over to the side of the road.
    Whether it’s handheld or hands free,there’s no two ways about it,it is a distraction and a dangerous one @ that.
    Just cut to the chase when wording the law, ‘no cell phone use while driving, no exceptions’. I think that covers everything don’t you

  28. Prohibit cell phone use by drivers in a moving car. Work to implement technology that would cut off texting and calling while the car is moving. It’s so dangerous.

  29. I have certain mized issues – first I use a head set beacuse I find it difficult to hold the phone next to my head. However I do use my built in GPS on a regular basis so I am not sure how that plays a roll and yes – sometimes I get pop up messages – Techology is a tricky thing but I would like to see the law

  30. Please vote yes. A friend of mine lost her mom last week while they were talking on the phone. I see SO many drivers being dangerous.
    Any steps we can take to make the roads safer should be pursued. Thanks

  31. I agree that a full ban makes the most sense, but any limitation is better than none at all.

  32. Given that texting is already illegal and is widely flaunted (and much more dangerous in my opinion than talking on a phone), I feel that we’d be better served to enforce the laws we have. I also would want to see data from states that have passed such a law in order to assess the efficacy. If it does nothing to reduce crashes or fatalities, it’s akin to taking your shoes off at the airport: just an other inconvenience that gives an illusion of increasing safety.

  33. I worry about distractions to drivers. Speaking on the phone and texting are serious distractions that take one’s mind and attention away from driving.
    While it may be difficult to enforce, I think that the message such a law sends is helpful. I doubt that the seatbelt law is easy to enforce but the law itself has many more people using seat belts for safety, I am sure.

  34. Holding something in one’s hand isn’t a serious distraction; holding a conversation with someone is a serious distraction. The answer is to ban all cellphone use, not (just) handhelds. This bill sounds like it is intended to look good to constituents rather than solving a problem.

  35. use of any phone or taxing device while driving is dangerous to the driver along with the passengers in the car and other cars on the road. I have seen accidents and myself escaped from a few close calls due to some driver’s use of phone while driving or entering the road from standing positions. Use of phone degrades the driver’s concentration and reflexes. It should be banned.

  36. If I were voting, I would vote yes. Holding a cell phone and talking while driving clearly is distracting and dangerous. The recent sight of a driver whipping around a corner with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a cell phone to his ear was chilling, an accident waiting to happen. Of course, we have to be prepared to enforce it. I suspect the police are not enthusiastic.

  37. Please vote yes to ban hand held devices. Maybe if people focus just on driving, they would drive better. People are too distracted in their cars !

  38. Thanks for asking.

    Although I have used hands-free and handheld phone devices while driving, I am convinced by both the research and my own experience, that any use of communication devices is detrimental to driving safety and should be prohibited.

    First off, it’s not just whether I get into an accident. Too many accidents affect other drivers and pedestrians. Why should we continue to endanger the innocent?

    Although I am a very experienced, defensive and thoughtful driver, I have had so many experiences where I was talking on the phone while driving (hands-free) and passed many intersections and exits that I simply could not remember. I was clearly not focused enough on the road.

    Talking on a phone involves a different level of engagement than listening to the radio or talking to a passenger. In the latter cases, it’s simple to ignore them and attend to the road, whereas we somehow feel an obligation to the person on the other end of the line, as they cannot see what we are confronting.

    I am also struck by commuters who apply makeup and read the paper while driving on the highway in the morning. Really!?! Someone should be pulling these people over too.

    I’m not sure what sanctions should be applied to these infractions (certainly not jail). Maybe required re-training. But I do feel strongly that we should set a standard for the state and the country that any distraction is not good for anyone’s safety.

    With regard to disproportionate enforcement in poorer communities and communities of color, we need to completely revise our notion of policing.


    1. And one more thing. What’s so important that we have to talk all the time while we are driving? Is our collective safety of so little importance compared to maximizing the efficiency of our precious time while driving? I hope not!

  39. I would like to see all cell phone use by vehicle drivers banned. I don’t know of any study that has shown that using cell phones while driving lessens the risk of an accident.

  40. The problem is that texting while driving is incredibly dangerous and the law against it isn’t enforceable because the driver can claim they were just talking on the phone which is legal. So you need a complete ban on any handheld phone use just for safety.

    I thing using a phone hands free doesn’t create the same level of danger as texting since you can keep your eyes on the road, so I see no reason to ban it.


    Dave Teller

  41. I’m not sure I like the way the law is written (or at least, if it is as you paraphrased it).

    “on an area of the roadway intended for travel” says to me that even if you are stopped, you’re in violation. A stopped car is relatively safe, and what we’ll get otherwise is all sorts of improvised pulling-off-the-road (like into bike lanes) to avoid this technicality. I’m willing to let people do this while stopped, especially if that makes it less onerous. For example, pulling off the road on Mass Ave is a real pain, but there’s plenty of chances to be stopped in traffic.

    I have, on the other hand, seen people futzing with their GPS while rolling and I’m totally okay with that being against the law. In my experience, talking on a phone is nowhere near the distraction of pushing any button whatsoever on the phone. Dialing is a disaster waiting to happen.

    And just a detail, but is this written for “vehicles” or “motor vehicles”? Bicycles running into things usually does little damage to property and other people, so it’s easy to justify limiting this restriction to motor vehicles because of their greater speed and larger mass.

    A minor other concern — how does this compare with laws in other states, especially nearby states (e.g., NY)? If their law is close enough to what we want, there’s a certain virtue to uniformity, and we can check their experience to see if we like the effects that they observed.

  42. Sir, there is a law on the books that might cover this. G.L. c.90,s13, Impeded Operation. under the section there is a Catch-all Coverage that states “on or in the vehicle or on or about his person, anything which MAY interfere with or impede the proper operation of the vehicle or any equipment by which the vehicle is operated or controlled.” I am sure an officer would need to be able to articulate exactly how the operation was impeded but that should not be a problem during ticket appeal. I suggest speaking with Sgt. Lawrence Kiley of the Mass State Police. He is a walking encyclopedia of chapter 90 law.

  43. Dear Senator,

    I would fully support a law prohibiting the use of cellphones in a moving car by drivers. Just yesterday, I saw a driver watching a tv show while driving! The distractions are making drivers more careless and I would further support action that would automatically shut all functions of a phone but navigation and call 911 while a car is in motion. Attention should be on the road and the many other vehicles and pedestrians that share it.

  44. I agree that law will be hard to enforce and therefore may not serve it initial purpose. However, I don’t think total and complete ban is a solution either – people spend way to much time in their car and staying disconnected from the world may not work for a lot a people. I feel some sort of a “hands-free” only law is needed, but with the legal language different from one currently proposed.

  45. Sen. Brownsberger,

    I have some problems with the bill as written. If the object is to decrease distracted driving, then the exception allowing a driver “to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function” allows for the most distracting time period of device interaction.

    I would like some clarification, as well. Would this law make use of a mobile device a primary offense? If so, I would agree that it would be very difficult to enforce. Limiting to hands-free doesn’t go far enough, but total ban of non-emergency use would be next to impossible to enforce.

    However, I also have some problems with some of the arguments you put forth. Saying “only 1.4% of fatalities” makes it sound like cell phone use is an insignificant risk, yet that still accounted for 455 deaths in 2013 that may otherwise have been avoided. It should also be noted that one limitation of that study is the variance in reporting/recording of distraction and cell use. What we can say is that at least 1.4% of distraction-associated fatalities involved cell phones. We should also avoid the temptation to focus solely on the most devastating outcome (death), when there are non-fatal but still serious outcomes.

    “And how many crashes have been avoided because someone had successfully put an address into a navigation system and was following the voice commands rather than fumbling with a map?”

    This does not seem to me a valid argument against the bill. Successfully putting an address into a GPS can be accomplished before the vehicle is under operation.

    Perhaps a better way to address distracted driving would be to have significant fines or other added penalties if use of a mobile device was a contributing factor to a traffic violation or accident. So, an added penalty on top of the penalties for the primary violation/accident.

    1. One more thought regarding hands-free vs. total ban as it relates to socioeconomic disparities. A hands-free only law basically allows those who can afford hands-free devices to engage in distracted behavior while prohibiting the same behavior in those who cannot afford hands-free devices.

    2. Good points. Just to respond on one issue: Reported (agreed, some is unreported) cell phone use accounts for a similarly low proportion of injury and property damage only accidents. Whatever the metric, most accidents are caused by other factors.

  46. Beautiful women walking on the sidewalk, Ferraris, snowstorms and passengers in my car are some of the things that can more distracting to me than talking on the phone. I hope you aren’t planning to ban those distractions as well.

    I agree that cell phones are distracting.

    And sometimes if you are driving by yourself, a phone conversation can make you more alert by breaking up the boredom of a long, a late night or early morning drive.

  47. I too fear for my life when I bike. You can always tell when people are texting.

    That being said I do not support changing the law. It is basically un enforceable

  48. Will,

    Using laws to “educate” is an abuse of their purpose. People who find themselves in violation of such laws do not become educated, they have their lives ruined. Drug laws, for example, have not served to “educate” anyone. The idea of giving police another excuse to pull over a driver who has not been driving erratically or too fast is an invitation to harassment and worse.


  49. I don’t support the law, as it goes too far and is unenforceable. I’m also a frequent biker.

  50. I have often narrowly escaped being run into by drivers concentrating on their phone messages rather than on the traffic. Please get this law passed for everyone’s sake. Don’t sit on the fence any longer!

  51. It’s a no-brainer for me: please vote YES on this bill. I’ve seen too much bad driving by people on cell phones.

  52. I strongly support the ban on cell phone use while driving. I see way too many drivers with one hand at their ear and one at the wheel. I think we need to gain a new respect for driving and reduce our own self-importance (are we so indispensable that we have to take the call now instead of later?)

    Just because there are other driving risks does not mean we should not reduce this one. I think your logic is flawed on that one. Plus educating people that distracted driving is dangerous can only help drivers to think more about other distractions too.

  53. I have almost been run over by drivers distracted by talking or texting on their cell phones several times and usually they are oblivious to what they have done. I DO hope you vote YES.
    Just asking people to be more careful hasn’t worked. We are all somewhat addicted to this amazing technology to the detriment of safe driving.


  55. Will, please vote no on the new law. Texting is already illegal, as it should be. The full AAA study (see its Appendix B) mostly finds no difference between cell phone use and listening to the radio. The NHTSA study does not distinguish between texting and phone calls and does not justify this regulation.
    The evidence instead shows that people are responsible with voice calls. This increase in police powers is as ill-advised as the seat belt proposal from a few weeks back.

  56. You’ve made the argument yourself. Overreaching and unenforceable. Enforce what we already have. Vote no.

  57. I encourage you to vote against the bill, because it is unenforceable and will only encourage riskier behavior by drivers and inconsistent interpretation by police officers. Based on the particulars of the law proposed, I do not believe it would be effective, and would risk doing more harm than good.

  58. I believe that the Driver must find a suitable place to park before answering his/her cell phone.

  59. I absolutely support the ban on cell phone use while driving.
    There is no question in my mind that many folks will die if you do not .
    To me it is not a no brainer , it is an obvious result.
    Research that says differently will be proved wrong.
    Not many eat subs while driving, but multitudes of drivers text and talk while at the wheel.
    Please support this legislation.

  60. Hi, Will,
    The primary distraction of talking on the phone is–wait for it–talking on the phone, whether the phone is handheld or on speaker. The *mental* multitasking is the main distraction. That said, I have seen plenty of drivers cut left turns dangerously short and make right turns dangerously wide because they only have one hand on the wheel and can’t properly stay in the turning lane. I think this is especially dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, and for this reason I would urge you to vote *for* this ban.
    Keep up the good work!

  61. Thank you, Will, for these eminently rational perspectives on the matter of telephone use by drivers. I deplore it, but as the telephone comes to perform ever more and so many different functions it gets harder and harder to just say ‘no phones’.

    Perhaps rather than trying to legislate regarding phone use directly, the strategy should be to create an incentive structure indirectly. The obvious approach would be through the insurance companies. But if indeed cell phone use makes so small a contribution to accidents as you report, there is probably little interest in the issue there, and no prospect of the insurers creating substantial incentives.

  62. I agree on prohibiting use of cell phone hand held while driving. However as some folks stated, pushing it further will not work, as people could not be disconnected for so long while driving. This is harsh American reality, many could not afford to put away their responsibilities while drive no matter how far they go. Two adults have to work now to support their families, while kids are in daycare, so they trying to juggle all other stuff between work and time with family, making their career so they could afford thing for kids and family. We should focus on enforcing other laws which recklessly violated by some people. Drivers are not obeying simple laws such as “Do not turn on red”, or not stopping before pedestrian crossings, running red light, etc. And again who going to catch officers when they distract, no one above law

  63. Please support this ban on cell phone use while driving. As someone else commented, this is a no-brainer.

  64. Vote yes. There are great technological ways to make using cell phones while driving much safer (hands free devices), and they are not expensive to retrofit, simply plug them into the lighter plug. Handling screen devices while driving is extremely dangerous. Also there needs to be a simple set of rules that is enforceable by police.

  65. Impossible. Do many drivers, especially those unfamiliar with an area RELY on them for NAVIGATION. Not everyone can afford a car with navigation systems built in. I, myself am new in the Boston area and have found it invaluable and probably prevented accidents by using my cellphone to tell me what lane I should be in or what turn to take. It’s just not feasible to completely ban it and not fair to either. It would set us back decades.

  66. I am in favor of a ban on handguns-held phones. I’m not in favor of a ban on inputting into nav. systems. Currently I use the speakerphone function on my cell device and query the effect of a ban on having it anywhere near your head as I do hold it up near my mouth.


  68. I’d say “no”. I bicycle commute to work daily. As you say, I really dislike how the proposal lets affluent folks still have phone conversations the evidence says are just as distracting as the ones being banned.

  69. Another selective enforcement boondoggle, and as others have pointed out, cell phones have become vital for navigation, and many people (including myself) use them for news and information as well as music players. It’s a backward looking technophobic approach to the issue, that as usual would impact people of color, and the poor and working classes, far more than the affluent . You raise enough additional issues that I can’t see how this could be in good conscience called good, or even acceptable legislature.

  70. Will,
    I think at least 20% of people driving are on a phone. But I don’t see that the difference between driving with one hand and talking on a phone is any different from holding a cup of coffee while driving. The danger comes when trying to dial a number. Also, my car has a built-in GPS, but I can still manipulate the screen while driving, and that also can be distracting. So I would not favor a complete ban. (BTW – I see people on bikes on cell phones – would that also be prohibited?

  71. Will,

    PLEASE vote to ban use of cell phones while driving. Every idiotically dangerous driver usually turns out to be on their phone.

    If necessary, allow use ONLY if the user is pulled over and fully stopped with the engine OFF. The danger of roadside stopping might also make those chronic offenders think twice before pulling out their phones and risking getting hit themselves.

    Thank you for asking for opinions. Nothing is more important than paying attention while driving. An automobile is a killing machine when used irresponsibly, and it’s time these chronic users and offenders stop and think over priorities, responsibility, and adherence to both the law and to common sense.

    Best Regards,


  72. If we had some enforcement of the existing law we might know how to vote on new laws.

    What are the stats on how many violations (or at least written warnings, which I prefer for first offenses, because the inconvenience may be an effective punishment) for the laws now on the books?

    No point in adding new unenforced laws to the old unenforced laws, is there?

  73. Will, I agree with all of your points and concerns about focusing on the wrong things, unenforceable, disparity, etc but I would still urge you to vote to ban hand-held cell phone use, flawed as this may be, for the additional reasons you cite.

  74. Will, you’ve done a good job of stating pros and cons. However, the pros are much more important than the cons.

    Some points I didn’t see mentioned a lot. 1. You can input your destination on a GPS before you leave! You rarely change it en route — and if you do, you can pull over first.

    2. You can input a phone # before you leave, and you can use express dials (1-9) for the #a you use a lot. For another phone call, you can input it before driving, “send” it for a second, and then hang up — so it is the last number you called. For several #s, you can change your express #s temporarily.

    3. There are lots of inexpensive ways to put a holder on the dashboard, so you don’t have to look down. Also, there are inexpensive devices to put the calls on your radio ($10-20). For low-income folks, that’s a lot cheaper than missing work because of an accident.

    4. Laws can be modified to work better.

    5. Yes, police can/will profile — that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have sensible laws!

    6. Cyclists often do dangerous things, especially if they are using phones. Just a brief wobble may cause accidents, as may avoiding the cyclist. (BTW, I find such cyclists rarely wear helmets!)

    7. I won’t answer while driving. If you expect important calls, you can use a prepaid phone for them — so others cans’t call you — and pull over to call back.

    8. I once got a call, which I pulled over to answer. Without any checking about whether I was driving, I was given the news of an important, unexpected death. (While I sat there shaking, a cop car stopped behind me — after only about 2 minutes! I explained why I was sitting there, and the cop impatiently asked if I wasn’t ready to drive on. So I pulled back on, still shaking.

    9. Anything that requires you to take your eyes off the road, however briefly, is dangerous. (There’s a video that shows how much time you miss vision this way.)

    10. The idea of increasing fines is excellent. The point made by someone that one-hand-on wheel affects turning accuracy is a good one.

    11. I’ve been stopped for slowing down to check street signs. I think I’ll move to a GPS for this reason — safer.

    12. Please vote for this bill. Not perfect — but requiring perfect interferes with an important improvement!

  75. I am for the toughest cell phone laws while driving. According to my info, even hand free is dangerous. You bicyclists should be scared. As a driver I am scared. A man ran a stop sign aost hitting my car while talking on his cell Hoping that God is your copilot while on your bike, Sallye bleiberg

  76. Seems like an easy decision. Stand on a corner at any busy intersection for 20 minutes and look at people’s eyes. Many are not looking at the road.

  77. First of all, I love having this digital forum to read other points of views and to offer feedback to my legislator!

    I support the ban on handheld devices. As for the meatball sub example, another poster cited the law about “impeded operation” that should cover that corner case.

  78. Will,

    I agree with you on distracted drivers. There are more distracted drivers than ever on the road. It can’t hurt to get a law on the books against mobile phone use, but I also read the same research about hands phones being just as dangerous. To make matters worse, new cars are now coming equipped with touchscreens on the dashboard that are also very distracting to drivers. It’s impossible to legislate common sense. Educational campaigns are much more effective in my opinion.

    I think that emerging technology like self driving cars will soon resolve most distracted driver problems.

    I recently replaced my ancient 2002 VW with a new Subaru that has all the latest technology: collision avoidance systems with lasers to detect pedestrians and vehicles in front of me and automatically stop my car, blind spot detectors, cruise control that automatically applies brakes if the car in front slows down, etc. I feel that we are on the verge of a new era of intelligent vehicles.

    It can’t get here fast enough. Google is already developing a totally hands free self driving car. It may be some years away yet, but that day is on the horizon.

  79. YES: Ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. It’s a danger to be talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving a car, impossible to focus on the road

  80. Please vote yes on a ban: the fine tuning can come later. The NTSB and AAA study combine to offer the support for YES that you seek. More drivers than not during rush hour have a phone to their ear. Not only visually distracting, but mentally as well. Concern over impact on less advantaged is misdirected since they can be equally victims or causes of accidents and need protection at all costs.

    In September I was seriously rear-ended in the Route 2 construction area where traffic was going slowly; car totaled, driver distracted by phone and hit gas instead of brake.

    I support a total ban, easier to enforce. We got along for years without this distraction, people can surely pull over in an emergency but currently most are so obsessed with their devices that they live in constant distraction.

    Accident statistics are likely skewed since people hesitate to admit fault. No way to verify how many are caused by phone distraction. You were right in 2010. Let’s let Massachusetts lead in this as with so many other issues!

  81. Senator: I share your misgivings about the impact of this proposal. The real concern is “distracted driving” and its not clear how the prohibitions in this law (assuming it can be equitably enforced at all) will actually impact the degree of distraction. But what if, instead of trying to directly legislate behavior, the goal was to shape car-based technology which would then shape behavior? What if the law was written in a way to require that cars be sold with the ability to allow truly hands-free and eyes-on-the-road voice-powered use? The language would have to include a high-level description of what that would entail — detailed enough to be directive, open-ended enough to allow innovation. It would take some brainstorming to figure this out, but it might be possible — similar to the requirements for other kinds of safety (which, up to now, are mostly focused on the vehicle occupants rather than those around it).

  82. There are laws already on the books for this, wether someone is distracted, putting on make up, using cell and driving too slow.
    Why do we need laws for every individual item. Also the majority of police officer drive while on cell phones.

    It seems to be we are creating more laws on top of laws. Lets now ban putting on seat belt while driving. Using radio. Using mirrors, talking to passangers, etc

    Lets still with the laws we have and enforce them.

  83. Please vote yes. It’s at the point where i wish driverless cars were here today, as people have no respect for others in their use of phones while driving. We may not have the driverless car yet, but we can do this and save lives.

  84. I agree with the proposed ban. Driving while using a hand-held device is very dangerous to other drivers and to pedestrians.

  85. Good and insightful comments here. I support this bill but would prefer a total ban on cell phone use. We should pull over if we need to use the phone.

  86. Dear Senator,

    Thank you so much for your attention to this vitally important issue. Our lives and well-being depends on it. I wholeheartedly agree with your advocating a full ban on cell phone use, and your thought that “the most important thing may be to continue to remind drivers about the dangers of allowing themselves to be distracted in any way, including driving while fatigued”, (Chuck Sizler at Brigham and Women’s extensive research on sleep deprivation has borne this out). With just a quick glance at stats for accidents due to distractions of any kind, the dangers are clear: cell phone use (hands free included), texting, eating, shaving, putting on make-up, falling asleep, or driving under the influence. Even without distractions, stats show that driving is one of the most complicated and dangerous things we do. The ONLY thing we should be doing in our cars is driving WITH FULL ATTENTION.

    Please watch this amazing, heartbreaking short film by great director Werner Herzog for A,T&T about texting:

    I would LOVE to see a public service campaign in the state to drive (no pun) these life altering issues home, as well as stiffer fines for violating texting (and hopefully cell phone use) laws.

    It is difficult since we all depend on our phones for personal and business use, but there is no other safe alternative.

    Being a safe driver or biker isn’t enough if others aren’t. I’ve been driving for 3 decades and have a stellar driving record. Last September I was back ended while stopped in traffic at Fresh Pond. The nice man who hit my car stopped and asked, “what happened?”. I told him and asked if he was on his cell phone. He said he was looking down at his GPS, and took responsibility. Last November, I was driving out of a parking lot in Newton when a woman backed out of her parking space into my car, smashing my headlight. She asked why I didn’t see her and said that she didn’t hear me honk my horn twice. My insurance agent (and her’s) cited her for distracted driving. Both drivers were 30 years old. Luckily, no one was injured.

    Thank you for reading my long email. I wish you and everyone safe biking and driving.

    Kind regards,

  87. Distracted driving is a real problem. We have come to accept, culturally, that it is OK to engage in lots of other mental and physical activities while driving a car, even if it could easily reduce our ability to do so safely. And our auto manufacturers are busily coming up with even more stuff to put into the car to distract us drivers.

    While it is imperfect and may have some downsides, I would vote for banning use of handheld devices (as NH already has). It is past the time that we pay more attention to culturally and legally dealing with the issue of distracted driving, until we can be sure that the OTHER car is self-driving.

  88. IMO, cell phone use while operating a vehicle is a safety hazard and should not be allowed. Please vote to make this practice against the law. Not only does it visually and mentally distracts the operators mechanics and the split second decision process, it keeps the driver from being present and totally observant. Cell phone use is an impairment of the driver’s awareness of surrounding vehicles, bicyclist and pedestrians, putting us in harms way. Please Ban cell phone use.
    thank you

  89. Nothing is perfect here, but two hands on the wheel are better than one. (especially when someone is trying to park) If the law is for hands free everywhere, the cell phone industry will be sure to catch up if they haven’t already. Holding the phone near your head is too hard to enforce and will cause problems. Banning them all together is unrealistic. Are we going to ask the police to stop people who appear to be alone in a car from moving their lips?

  90. There are so many pros and cons, I went back and forth for a while. Ultimately, I don’t agree with the ban. I don’t think the research supports it, and I believe it would be unenforceable. Thank you for asking our opinion!

  91. Yes – please ban usage of cell phones while driving.

    Erratic driving while talking on cell phones is a daily observation. It is a subject of much discussion with friends and family. I’ve found few people who defend it.

  92. I definitely think that hand-held cell phones should be banned when driving. Despite people’s belief that they can multi-task science has shown that this is not at all true!

  93. I am against the use of cell phone use(texts, calls, and surfing the web) by the driver while the vehicle is moving. If the car is at a complete stop then the driver should be allowed to use their cell phone.

    Also if the driver is using the cell phone as a gps they should be allowed to as long as it is placed in a spot that doesn’t compromise the safety of the driver or anyone else on the road.

  94. I vote for a full ban on cell phone use. Until voice activated systems are universal in cars.

    I also advocate lowering the highway speed limit to 55 mph. Save oil, pollution and lives.

  95. Seems like a no-brainer to me!
    How many times have you encounter a driver changing lane or suddenly “navigating” outside his/her lane or turning without blinkers just because one hand is busy holding the phone? How many times have you encounter a driver almost running you over because his/her focus was on the ongoing phone conversation?
    Are we smarter in the US that we can do multiple tasks while driving, when most of the european countries have banned the use of pbone for years?

    No question for me: ban the use of phone while driving!

  96. I think it should be banned. Even if you are not texting you have to look at it to pick it up or to dial a number or even speed dial. It just makes sense to not let ANYONE do something that takes their eyes form the road on a regular basis.

  97. Dear Senator, I really appreciate all the thought you have put into this. I cringe when I see a driver who is most likely carrying on a non emergent conversation on a cell phone. But I also hear your argument for difficulty to enforce this, and therefore putting more onus on police officers.

    Is there another way to focus on safety while driving – an ad campaign or something – that points out the dangers of distraction from cell phones, eating, putting on makeup, etc. while behind the wheel?

    Safety is the issue – cell phones are only one distraction.

    The discussion must have been interesting. I’m not sure how I would vote either….

  98. I favor a ban on the use of hand held devices in all circumstances. I would prefer a total ban on all devices whether hand held or not but I doubt such a prohibition would pass so I would go with the hands held ban. I would however take out the exemption for emergencies. If it is a true emergency any sane operator, I think, would pull over to make the emergency call. This exception will allow people to still use devices and if and when cited will create a greater burden on the courts when trying to decide on whether something was or was not a true emergency. Distracted driving can be caused by many things but using a hand device, particularly particularly while looking at the device has to cause the greatest distraction. So I am in favor of the ban.

  99. Hi Will – Thank you for soliciting our feedback on this.

    You have a lot of good points about why to implement this ban on mobile phone use. I agree with you, and think this is an important start.

    Many other states have similar bans. This may only be a small step, but it raises awareness about the safety hazards of mobile phone use by motorists.

    Cell phone use is especially a hazard for vulnerable road users, as you say.

    I thank you for considering a vote in support of this ban!

  100. Let’s just require a disapproving grandma in every passenger seat. I don’t think we can solve everything through legislation. Any law you’re talking about just invites more evasion. A lot of business gets conducted by phone during our region’s lengthy commutes.

    There should be some changes but they need to be cultural and technological, not legislative.

  101. Thanks for your detailed explanation. Any distraction to a driver raises the risk of an accident, including my telling my wife that she should pull off the road rather than continue to talk on her cell phone. I am aware that police officers are often looking down at their lap tops and wonder how many accidents that visual distraction causes. I am dubious about enforceability of the proposed statute.

  102. Dear Will,

    Difficult issue. Cell phone use for gps guidance should be allowed provided the driver isn’t fumbling with phone while driving. But that one would be hard to prove. I have to admit that cell phones are becoming better at gps guidance than any gps device out there. On the other hand, I have found myself nearly missing a serious accident while I was talking on my cell, hands free, because I was looking up a number with the car dials (blue tooth). I would recommend banning all cell phone use, hands free or not, except when in gps mode or in an emergency. Enforcing all this is the hard part.

  103. Yes Senator, the use of cell phone while driving, most definitely should be banned. I always wonder why they didn’t do it at the time they banned texting. Realistically, I don’t believe the statistics regarding the low percentage of accidents caused by drivers using cell phone is accurate, since I doubt anyone would admit to it. Furthermore, the financial burden could be mainly on younger adult (over 24). And if it is the matter of emergency, people can always pull over to make a call ; something that a sensible person would do. Thank you!

  104. Hi Will,
    I appreciated meeting you at the WPL last Monday.
    I’m against the law. I use GPS and handsfree on my phone and am extremely careful when I interact with it. Many are not and this is a problem. I would rather see harsh penalties (loss of license, criminal or civil) for anyone involved in an accident while texting/typing on the cell phone (assuming such info is available from telco or phone). Same as DUI for any type of provable distracted driving (don’t know if meatball sub stains on the collar would qualify!) Also, perhaps car-phone bans for offenders. Cops pulling good drivers over because they touch their GPS is overreaching. I’d rather see them follow an offender and get them on a moving violation. (Can’t wait for Google cars so we can text and take a nap while transporting!)
    Jeff Johnson

  105. Driving down Belmont Street I saw a women on the phone (to her ear) and her other hand was out the window flicking ashes from her cigarette! I have also seen this sort of thing with food and a phone. But the most common thing I see, or in this case, don’t see, is lack of directional signaling – right handed people use their left hand to hold a phone to their head (so they can drive with their dominant hand) and so there is no hand available to work the turn signal. (as if signaling wasn’t already nearly extinct)

    I have a 2010 car, 7 year old technology for NAV system. I can have the system dial a # directly or have it dial by voice.

    Additionally, my iphone also can be asked to call anyone by name or to dial by a number I say out loud.

    So while I would agree that poorer communities may suffer b/c their cars may not have the built in technology – their phones most certainly have a speakerphone system that allows them to use it hands free and there are headsets that can be purchased for a small fee that allows the same.

    Please, please, please, vote for this in the affirmative. If the police do their job with these infractions (which they will be able to see) then there will be a reduction. (will there be an escalating fine I hope?)

    I would also like to think that as the technology becomes less costly and more cars are outfitted with it as standard equipment, the phone-to-the-head would become less and less of an issue. (can congress require this in all new cars?)

    A full ban, I do not think is very enforceable. How would you know if someone was talking or singing to the radio? At least this is a step forward.

  106. Thanks for your thoughtfulness on this iissue.

    I favor not passing the bill..mostly because people need to learn their own levels of safety. I personally do use GPS and hands free cell phones. I also listen to music, change channels, etc. In the old days and still today I use mmaps. I do sometimes eat in car. These are personal choices and all distractions that I must manage.

    Related to your question and not part of this bill is how to handle professional driver… Bus, mbta,vans, etc. They, particularly those working for mbta or amtrak, have no rights to use cell phones during work. The fines/punishment for these infringements shoukd be loss of job and in the case of fatalities if aaggravated, very severe. I hope there is a bill and discussion about tthis.

  107. People who have hands free can keep their eyes on the road, but they can’t keep their minds on the road. Why not go for safety. Call when you arrive. Pull over if you can’t wait. We are too tied to electronic leashes. The idea that a phone call or text takes precedence over a 5000 lb steel box going 60 mph is ridiculous, when you think about it.

  108. Thank you for asking. I’m in favor of the ban and would ask you to support it. I wonder if law enforcement agencies have expressed an opinion on this.

  109. Yes, you hit the nail on the head. This lot is going a bit too far. The cell phone is extremely useful device for navigating and communicating with people you are meeting. A better life would be to require roads to have enough pull off zones for communication.

    Thank you for asking!

  110. Just read some other comments. I favor anot passing the bill but instead mandating stiffer fines by instance carriers for those who have accidents as a rusilt of hand held devices. I realize all drivers won’t fess up..some will be known at time of accident

    This adds deterent and allows competent drivers to continue.

  111. I would have said yes but reading the bill I’m not sure. And…I worry that any time some people scratch their ear, it will allow an officer to stop them, “I thought I saw a phone”. Could that part come out? If not, and with all the other reasons you point out, vote no.

  112. Hi Will,
    Cell phone use while driving is essential to many.
    Hands free works in other states, but is there a significant difference between hands free & handheld regarding auto accidents?
    Google maps have been adopted by many simply because you can make changes while driving, not so with auto factory installed GPS. Google maps is constantly being upgraded with innovations that make driving safer.
    No change to the law is preferable, hands free (earbuds or Bluetooth) has been adopted elsewhere (NY, CT). It would be interesting to know their experience over the past 5 years.
    Best wishes,
    Steve Gramolini

  113. Definitely we should discourage use of cell phones or other devices which cause one arm driving. The traffic is too much already and we need no distracted drivers around us. And I’ve witnessed bad driving with cell phones in use. Enforcement? Difficult but surely not impossible to at least check out drivers. But I’m a strong two-hands-on-the-wheel advocate. And we do use GPS.

  114. My older brother, Bob, acquired an antique Rolls Royce, of which there are (were) three in the world. He and his buddies tore it down, rebuilt it, got someone to make matching upholstery.
    On a sunny Sunday, he was in left rear, a young man who had helped the job drove, girl friend in right rear, her father in the right front. They took a test drive, everything went smoothly, and as they eased toward Bob’s driveway, the teen aged son of his next door neighbor came roaring out of his driveway in a Ford Bronco, turned right, and ran head on into the Rolls.
    He was talking to his girl friend on his cell phone.
    Bob’s head hit the ceiling giving him a scar from scalp to face. “The older man lost an eye. The driver had the steering column pushed into his chest, fracturing his sternum. Girl friend was not injured.
    The car was made with a steel frame the likes of which are only used on railroads and tank now. It was twisted.When they took it to a shop that specialized in straightening bent frames, the man said he couldn’t do that one. The car was a total loss. The insurance company paid, after two years of haggling, the money that Bob originally paid, nothing for all the restoration (and the valued added).
    Ever since then I have paid attention to the research that has been done about the odds for an accident when the driver is distracted by any number of things.
    But this is one of them. Of course, I urge you to vote for the ban.

  115. I believe this law should definitely be approved, and strengthened to ban hands-free cellphone use while driving also. From my observation and experience, the distraction of a driver on the phone, in any mode, significantly diminishes conscientious road attention and careful driving, and endangers the driver’s car and other vehicles. Hands-free, speaker-use or other variant usage approaches do not meaningfully diminish the effect of mental focus on the phone conversation reducing attention to safe driving.

  116. Thank you for asking!

    I worry a lot about those clearly consumed with their cell phone conversations while I’m driving and cycling, and I believe a law would help because those involved in an accident while distracted by a cell phone conversation might then be more seriously penalized by fines, etc. for their part in causing an accident.

  117. Ban cell phone use while driving. Over the past few years I had several near miss accidents because the other driver was distracted while on the cell phone while driving.

  118. Hi Will,

    Many “work” out of their cars or use travel time to catch up on phone calls. In my observance, texting while driving remains a huge problem, I suggest raising the fines on this.
    I don’t know what the data shows but it seems some appear to drive slower when on the phone. I would rather police not be tied up processing someone for holding a cell on speaker phone when they could stop the many aggressive drivers that run red lights, cut off others and those OUI. Thanks for soliciting input and for your service!

  119. The data around the impact of cell phone use by automobile operators is overwhelming.See the web site hosted by the National Safety Council:

    While it is unlikely to abolish hand-held cell phone use, a “no hands” law would be a step in the right direction, equivalent to the “no open container” laws in the early days of the ongoing crack-down on drunk driving.

    This should not be a “close call”. We do not tolerate drunk driving because it is reckless and irresponsible. The evidence on cell phone use while driving shows it too is reckless and irresponsible. This is a First Amendment issue, where the operator has a First Amendment right to “swing their fist that ends just short of my nose.”

  120. Having worked on regulations much of my professional life, I strongly believed that voluntary compliance was the best we could hope for but that the regulation sent a strong message about the desired behavior. No one seems to understand that automobiles are killing machines. All distractions impair one’s ability to make quick decisions. We are just plain arrogant today thinking that we can do a million things at one time. I strongly believe that that is a total myth and that every additional activity you are trying to do is diminishing your ability to do any of them. Every person, regardless of age, should be required to take driver’s training and all distractions need to be eliminated. Driving is a stressful, difficult activity, if done well and safely, and we need the population to understand that. Vote for this one, Will, and thanks.

  121. I urge you to vote YES on the proposal to ban use of hand-held cell phones while driving.

    This is common sense, a good first step towards at least drawing attention to the most obvious and probably most dangerous form of distracted driving.

    With today’s technology, there is no longer any valid excuse for driving with a cell phone in one hand !

  122. Please vote for the law. I have been almost hit/sideswiped/run down by drivers visibly using cell phones more times than I can count. Those who reckon themselves ‘careful’ cannot be trusted. Better yet, could the measure be amended to ban all cell phone use by drivers, or at least all cell phone use by those by those not holding commercial licenses? As for navigation, people ought to learn to map out and memorize their routes before setting out. Too many lives are at risk not to pass this, even if it is (in my opinion) not stringent enough.

  123. There are countless distractions while driving. The radio, billboards, bad drivers all contribute to being distracted. We cannot reasonably eliminate all distractions. At best, we can minimize them. I believe current statutes cover this ground adequately. Additionally, technology outpaces legislation and I do not think we can get ahead of it.

    My concern with taking this further are two fold. First, it will be very difficult to monitor and discern. Many newer cars come with multifunction touch screens. Am I using my GPS or changing the radio station? Am I dialing a number or checking my tire pressure. (Moreover, most new cars come with features that won’t allow the driver to access certain features while the car is moving. I think technology will continue to improve the safety of our vehicles and, in time, accomplish what this legislation desires to do.

    Secondly, and more importantly, since it is difficult for a third party to know with certainty the action of the driver, this law could be used as an excuse to pull someone over (the 21st century version of the broken tail light).

    The possibility that this legislation could be easily abused to violate civil rights, in light of the advancing safety technology, leads me to the opinion that it is not appropriate legislation.

  124. I can understand your difficulty in making this decision, I also worry that people with less means will get targeted. Perhaps we need to raise the fines that exist already, and be more aggressive about education. I have been in the car with people and worried about them driving and speaking on the phone at the same time. I can think of several occasions where I have wanted to ask the person driving to stop talking on the phone. It’s a complicated issue because I too agree used properly it avoids accidents. The problem is people don’t use common sense and you can’t fine them for that. Good luck

  125. I would support an imperfect law as being part of the educational process to send the message to the public that distracted driving is against the law. When I go in to locales that have a cell phone-related law, I notice fewer people flagrantly holding a phone while driving. All kinds of use of one’s hands while driving, or ears, or eyes will create a distracted (and dangerous) driver, but I don’t think that justifies failing to recognize one specific and very common hazard. As to whether the ban should be full or partial, I think I would support a full ban over a partial, but would take whatever we can get.

  126. Will, a comment on some comments I’ve seen. There are people saying rolling cell phone use is “essential” for small business.

    This can’t really be true, unless we had no small business before cell phones, and I know that we did. If the ban is statewide *and enforced*, there’s also no competitive disadvantage in stopping to take a call. If it’s not enforced, then scofflaws get ahead, so we do need to be sure that the law is both enforceable and enforced.

  127. I strongly urge you to vote to ban the use of hand held devices. As a driver and a pedestrian I am frightened by the number of drivers not focusing on the task at hand, driving. Our society appears to be addicted to their devices. Unfortunately, all common sense and consideration is lost to their addiction, putting others at risk.

  128. We need to ban the phones. I attempt to cross the River Street Bridge each morning and I see about 10% of the drivers distracted by their phones.

  129. As a cyclist and grandmother distracted driving upsets me. Please vote to ban cell phone use.

  130. Yes, ban cell phone use while driving. I can accept speaker phones, but anything that takes a driver’s hand off the steering wheel and commands the driver’s attention just to hold it to the ear, is unsafe. Driving, especially in the heavy traffic world of today, demands full concentration.

  131. I don’t think the bill should focus on the object — cell phones– but on the behavior (distraction). Manipulating the radio while driving can be very dangerous; reading, eating, and so many other behaviors are equally distracting.
    If we target cell phone users, we are, as you mention, placing more burden on people who cannot afford to buy voice activated phones.

  132. I ask that you please vote to ban cell phone use while driving. I see many distracted drivers on their phones on my commutes and have had several close calls. Yes, drivers can be distracted by other things too, but why not limit the distractions?

  133. Before I read the arguments for and against that you set forth, I was “for” the ban. But After reading this, because I so totally agree with all the cons you point out, I have been swayed to the other side. In fact, I truly believe that investing in cameras at traffic lights (with h signage indicating that there are cameras present) would go much farther than any cell phone laws in preventing fatalities. The accidents caused by red-light runners usually result in the most serious injuries as well.

  134. The only problem I see is a jurisdictional issue. Certainly with cell phones it is justified. The communications under way have nothing to do with the immediate surroundings and road conditions. But what about amateur radio operators (covered under FCC) same for citizen band? A lot of the time operators of CB and HAM activities are basically volunteers augmenting public safety operations. The simple solution to this would be to exempt Amateur and CB operators.

  135. A tough call, I agree. I’m very aware of the rapidly increasing cognitive load associated with driving–more signs to read, more bikes, more pedestrians dressed all in black at night, more pedestrians crossing the street without looking left or right, more drivers averse to using their turn signals, continual aggressive driving, 80-90 mph drivers on every controlled-access highway, cell phone use. I must wish for police enforcement of current laws 3 of every 4 times I take the car out of the driveway.
    Given 1) the current state of research available, 2) the burden police already have, 3) the disproportionate burden this law will place on communities of color, poverty, I think I prefer to wait and see a bit longer before enacting the proposed legislation. However, I can’t deny that it’s a tempting proposition.

  136. Please vote down this unnecessary and extraordinarily vague law. The downsides are significantly more the upside. I do believe that talking on the phone whether handheld or handsfree degrades driving ability. The difference between handsfree and handheld is much smaller.  Most people usually drive one handed as the law currently provides for.  When was the last time you saw a driver keep their hands at 2 and 10 >than 10% of the time

    A presumptive violation in “immediate proximity of one’s head” is at best a new tax on drivers and at worse a significant and unnecessary violation of civil liberties.  

    People will continue to use their phones and dialing covertly will cause more accidents as people do now with texting.

    If this law is passed where does the line end with distracted driving? Must a mother gag and bind her children so she is not distracted by them?  Prohibiting hot coffee in the car in case it spills in the driver’s lap causing him or her to jerk the wheel? Forcing drivers to wear sleep monitors? At the end of the day there if someone is using the phone and causes an accident they will be found at fault and if they do it enough times their license will be taken away.  

    Given the number of bikes in Boston as a better safety measure is to require bikes to have registration plates as well since I see bikes barrel down sidewalks when there are clearly marked bike lanes.  Not all but there are bike riders who openly flaunt the rules of the rules i.e., red lights to the detriment of pedestrians and drivers alike because it is extremely hard to track down a bike rider. Having registration plates on bikes would allow people to call in offenders who ruin it for everyone.  The revenue raised from the registration would be directed towards bike lanes and other related infrastructure related to bike use.  

  137. I agree with the ban.Drivers are already distracted by all the information on screens in cars.

  138. Vote for this one, Will. Not everyone eats while they drive, but the majority of people today do drive with phones. And the ones who are using them while operating their vehicles are definitely distracted. You can always tell when you’re behind them — random braking and slowing down, no turn signals, driving through red lights and stop signs, disregarding people in crosswalks. Or coming at you straight on, unaware and without braking/ Passage of this bill is an important first step to improved public safety.
    Thank you

  139. Will, as many have stated in their posts, an imperfect law, in many cases is the starting point. Especially one that doesn’t take away anyone’s liberties. You and I have spoken in the past as I am a major advocate of enforcing Texting and Driving laws, and more importantly awareness or as I call it, creating guilt. If you recall the following we did at the Butler and Winn Brook Schools in Belmont ( Laws will make people think, guilt will make them do the right thing.

    A few years ago I went through the windshield of a driver who was suspected of texting and driving on Concord Avenue between Belmont and Cambridge, while I was on a moped. I was doing just short of 30 mph and let’s say she was doing even 20. The 50+mph impact smashed my knee against the speedometer, flipped me over, head (with helmet) and shoulder took out her hood, my hip shattered her windshield, my body spun around, right arm taking off her driver’s side mirror and I landed four feet from the bumper of a pickup truck. Thankfully he stopped.

    I had every opportunity to die that day, or be paralyzed. Fortunately, I had no broken bones but my knee and hip were banged up bad and I went in for full rotator cuff and labrum repair, and reattaching my bicep tendon, on my right shoulder.

    What I like about this law is it focuses on everyone. Not just teenagers. There are more drivers over the age of 18, than there are under the age of 18, and they are texting and driving. The Dad running to coach soccer practice and trying to figure out with his wife, who needs to be picked up where, the pizza delivery guy looking for his next stop, the realtor trying to get their next client, the contractor trying to stay in touch with his crew. It is all just too much to try to do behind the wheel but historically the focus has been on kids. This will focus on everyone.

    In fact, I attend every Belmont Driving School class, to support the owners and get the message across to the kids. What I don’t do is preach to the students to not text and drive but after telling my story and showing this exceptional video from AT&T (, I ask them to be the advocates to stop others from texting and driving. Specifically their parents. (“How mature would your parents think you are, if you took their phone when they went to text and drive, and said ‘I’ll do it, it’s not worth it.’?”

    I haven’t read through the law fully but there are two things I would love to see, if possible. The State of New York, put in the following “Text Stop” at every rest area on the thruway (,2817,2424762,00.asp). Is there any reason we couldn’t do the same on the Mass Pike. Great reminder.

    In addition, can we allow people to either get a tax refund, reimbursement, or trying to get the insurance companies for discounts, when using text locking systems in cars. My son drives in a year and for the past year I have been using Cell Control on my phone ( They have different versions of the equipment, ones that plug into the OBD of a car under the steering wheel or a windshield version, like and EZ pass transponder. It completely shuts down my phone when the car moves. I want my kids to know you don’t need it. The software is completely customizable to allow or disallow virtually everything (GPS, music, Bluetooth calls, etc.).

    In the end, this law is about the ability to enforce the current laws on the books. Police officers can’t, at this time, affectively police because of ways people can trick the system. People need to wake up, put their phones down and drive.

    Thanks for all your efforts but there is no question, this should be a yes vote.

  140. I am not sure myself and personally I don,t use a cell phone while driving….education at high school level is probably better than prohibition to teach the possible dangers as well as the good points to use a cell phone in car while driving

  141. I agree with the educational approach to this problem. While the buckle-up and clean the snow off your car laws are effective, should Mass be in a constant vigilant state if legislating common sense?

    That being said, could these laws generate enough revenue to expand our police forces? If not, let’s opt for educating our residents first.

  142. I would not vote for this law. I think the existing law covers the most important bases. Every new act that is prohibited in this new law
    has exceptions – when a GPS loses signal or doesn’t automatically re navigate, one may be forced to reenter the address. One may be on an emergency call and/or need directions without a GPS and will be further delayed by being pulled over. I think you’re right in that there are a million other possible distractors when driving – do we ban eating? Do we ban the use of radios/CDs/playlists unless the driver is listening to one continuous station/disc/album? Do we ban arguing with a family member or significant other in the car?

    I think this bill is a little too extreme and people will indeed find ways around the law, which will waste both citizen and police force time.

  143. I am for total ban of cell phones while driving, allowing only hands-free. Studies aside, I can tell you from my personal experience that when a driver in front of me drives like an idiot, the moment I pass him/her or I have a chance to see why this is happening they are ALWAYS talking on their cell phone.

    Personally, I think it’s pretty simple. You need to talk and don’t have a hands-free device, you need to input an address on your GPS etc. – you pull over, get that done, then get back on the road and focus on your driving.

    The argument against Bluetooth is weak, I have no idea how it came about. It’s no different than talking to a passenger in your car. If that’s distracting, it follows we shouldn’t have passengers in our cars either.

    I do hope this law passes. There are, as it is, way too many really bad drivers in Massachusetts. The system of getting a drivers’ license is poorly designed, the rules few and unclear.

    Please do a little game check to see if the majority of drivers know how to properly turn left. They don’t. And who can blame them — check the MA Driver’s Manual, there is nothing about WHERE in an intersection a left-turning car should be stopped while waiting to turn left, which is in the middle of that intersection so that cars can pass and so that it doesn’t block the traffic flow. It’s a constant game of fear, guessing and poor judgement since there are no clear rules.

    A dear friend of mine drives miles out of her target to avoid left turns. She’s horrified of them, doesn’t know how to do them and is aware that almost nobody else does either.

    I got my permit in Europe where the rules are spelled out very clearly and it’s a super tough exam to pass.

    Bottom line: since there is gross driving incompetence on the roads anyway, let’s at least add a few more safety rules that can better protect all of us.

  144. Please vote to ban use of hand-held cell phones while driving.

    This ban works just fine in Ontario, and few question it.

    Driving thousands of pounds of material while attempting to use a device that’s the size of your hand is a public safety issue.

  145. I can only speak from experience. I find receiving calls while driving very stressful & distracting, I never initiate calls as it is totally distracting to have to press more than one button.
    I observe too many people talking on a cell phone and are an accident waiting to happen. I had a delivery truck cut me off pulling in front of me from the left while on the phone. He was shocked when I used my horn.
    If you want my opinion on this, I’m all for banning them while driving. I’m a bit torn, however, since I helped talk my daughter home from the Cape when she broke toes tripping over submerged rocks on a beach walk. Do what you think is best.

  146. I feel strongly that the use of cell phones while driving is hazardous. In my experience, people on cells often drift out of their lanes and drive at irregular speeds I would strongly support any law that restricts this problem.

  147. I support all efforts to reduce distracted driving. I see dangerous examples every day. If an incremental approach is the best we can do, then vote for this. If in your judgement it will delay a more comprehensive ban on distracting activities, then don’t.

  148. I would be in favor of a ban on hand held cell phone use. But, I’d also like to see police enforcing laws in place already. Every day on my commute there are any least 10 people texting and many more talking. This is on route 3 at speeds over 60 mph. So, either the enforcement is not there or the fines are not high enough.
    Put some teeth in it and make it a minimum $500 fine for any phone / texting that requires physical input.

  149. I ride the bus to work and am constantly amazed at the numbers of people who are texting while driving even though it is illegal. Let’s ban all cell phone use while driving, for safety’s sake and pull over to make a phone call.

  150. The use of cell phones in the car has become so ingrained that an attempt to ban it outright would only create an extremely large group of violators. It would be reminiscent of the impact prohibition had on alcohol consumption.

    It would make more sense to try to put reasonable limitations on the use of the cell phone. I would be in favor of limiting any manipulation of the cell phone to times when the car is not moving, ie stoplight, stop sign, etc.

    Also it should be kept in mind that many people use their navigation system to get around.

  151. I strongly support a ban on use of handheld devices when driving, as 20 states, including New York and California, do.

    I’ve had too many close calls as a pedestrian, cyclist, and driver because of phone-using distracted drivers.
    [They’re also a hazard because they don’t signal — the current law says that they must keep one hand on the wheel!]

    For more than a decade, I’ve used an old-fashioned, on-ear, bluetooth device when driving. It’s easy to make and receive calls with good audio quality.

  152. I would recommend voting for the ban. Yes, there are reasons to consider it flawed, but I think a flawed ban is better than the status quo. Like others, I see lots of distracted drivers talking with their phones in hand. And a semi-related issue I’m seeing more and more: distracted drivers driving while wearing earbuds in BOTH ears. Yes, if your car doesn’t have Bluetooth and you aren’t using the speakerphone feature of your phone, you need to use an earbud/mic in ONE ear. But BOTH ears is dangerous because you can’t hear what’s happening around you. I’ve also seen more and more cyclists with the double earbuds — not good.

  153. I understand we live in “fast times” and access to information is near instantaneous, but what is wrong with pulling safely over to the side of the road, or off the highway, or into a turn-off for five minutes to make your call, or check your GPS, or read a map? The proposed law is a start, but just a start. But if you take one step in the right direction, you can either continue in the right direction or veer away on some other path. But that first step is critical. I saw a woman with a cell phone to her ear cross four lanes of traffic on Route 2W and exit at 4/225 and she caused all kinds of havoc and two near misses. That needs to stop.

  154. I’m absolutely absolutely in favor: when in control of a vehicle at speed any distraction means endangering both the operator and innocent others – like drivers and pedestrians.

    Enforcement of a visible offense is no more difficult for police than catching up with a driver who makes an illegal turn – whether the police are in a car or just observing the traffic infraction.

    I respectfully urge you to vote for the law.

  155. This cell phone ban strikes me as yet another unnecessary extension of police power. In my view, intrusions by police authority into the lives and behavior of individual citizens should be kept to a minimum. Doesn’t Massachusetts routinely have one of the lowest automobile death rates in the nation? We already have a distracted driving law on the books. From my perspective, that seems like enough.

  156. Hi, thank you for this opportunity. I would ask you vote against this ban. As you wrote- 14% of 10% of fatalities involved the use of cell phones. For every story about a driver being distracted, there is another about a cyclist or a pedestrian not paying attention. Please focus more on enforcing current code and while antidotal stories are important, laws should be evidence based.

  157. I agree with your assessment that it will unfairly target lower income people. I have a hands-free phone system in my car which makes talking on the phone fairly safe.
    If you have a long commute to and from work and need to speak with your children, you should be able to use the phone .

  158. Wouldn’t a more general “distracted driving” law be better? Why limit it to merely texting or non-hands-free phone use? There are plenty of other things people can and do do that results in hazardous driving.

    Although without any kind of enforcement, I’m not sure what the point would be. There’s practically no enforcement of more basic things, like running red lights in and around my town. That potentially poses more danger than the slightly erratic driving someone talking on their phone might pose, IMO.

  159. I favor a ban on non-hands-free cell phone use while driving; most phones can now be dialed by voice.

  160. I hate to add another unenforced/unenforceable item. If there is a statute for distracted driving then it’s the driving that needs judging by the police (weaving, drifting, speeding). If they then could ticket with a substantial fine then it’s a matter of training and supporting police.

  161. I support a ban on using phones while driving. Driving today is often hazardous as one encounters so many “unsafe” drivers without adding the distraction which a cell phone creates.

  162. I would vote for this law. Leaving aside some of the phone-distracted driving I have seen, I have tried to self-examine my driving while using a cell phone. I believe it is indisputable that cell-phone use is distracting for a driver – impairing attention, vision and hearing. I have concluded that diminished attention occurs even with hands-free operation. People challenge me on this by asking how it is different from having a passenger with whom the driver is having a conversation. The difference is that the passenger is “there” and understands the attention needed to drive. The conversation in person proceeds in a way that allows the driver to pay attention. I recall driving with my grandmother who never drove in her life. I remember that she would ask a question or make a comment at the wrong or inappropriate moment in the drive, e.g. when i was about to pull out of one street to turn onto another. In contrast, my wife would never do that, because she has a sense of when I need to focus on the driving maneuver. A person on the other end of the phone – hands-free or not – can’t do that. Cell phone use is inconsistent with driver competence and safety, and it puts other drivers, passengers, bikers and pedestrians at greater risk.

    1. Several people have pointed to this. I think there is some kind of extra effort involved in imagining the person you are talking to while looking at the road. It’s easier for the brain when person is sitting next to you.

  163. Hi Will.. My husband and I both recognize that we ourselves are less careful drivers when we use our cell phones while driving. In addition, my car has been struck on two separate occasions by drivers speaking on a cell phone at the time, and while not causing injury, it did necessitate costly repairs, inconvenience and aggravation. It is true that children, GPS, hands free phone calls and other distractions may cause poor driving as well, but you have the opportunity here to significantly diminish the cause of a large number of the distractions that lead to injury and loss of life in car accidents.

    Also, should a driver struck and injured by a person driving while using a cell be given the opportunity to seek legal redress from a cell phone caller using his/her device at the time of an accident? Since people (like me on occasion) knowingly take risks driving using the devices, I think there should be a policy in place to discourage the practice, and to call these cell phone users to account. Thanks for asking, Will.

  164. I think hand-held cellphone use while driving should be banned and fined. It’s obvious. One-hand driving while yakking on a phone is a little stupid. When you drive, especially these days, you have to assume wacky, discourteous, unlawful driving by way too many.

    And since you’re a bicyclist (and I’m sure a careful and considerate one) both bicycles and pedestrians should observe the rules, which too many don’t. Some pedestrians are on their cell phones, and some pedestrians and cyclists seem to think they’re invincible. And night-time pedestrians should be required to wear some kind of reflective gear, because if they’re wearing all black clothing (including hat) it’s more than challenging to see them. And this is what I hear from much younger people.

  165. I hadn’t thought anything but “ban it.” I read your thoughts carefully and understand the subtlety a bit more. Being human, we’re prone to all kinds of seemingly harmless silly behavior. A woman who killed a pedestrian last week was adjusting her heat and doing something else — no phone, but distracted and deadly, still. In the end, though, to the extent we can mind our own carelessness, I think the ban should be added to the law. It won make habitual cell phone user forego those important calls, but s few arrests with fines might spook some people to get a hands-free set up. I cringe when I see someone on the phone. That’s a survival instinct. Yes, please do vote to ban driving while talking on the phone unless you’re set up for hands free.
    Thank you.

  166. Please vote for the bill banning hand held electronic devices while driving.

    The inattention is frightening for a biker.

  167. I think that this would be a GREAT LAW. It would really help public safety. It would be huge for the safety of bicyclist, pedestrians and drivers alike. It has been a long time coming. Please vote YES.

  168. I would like to see a ban on hand held phones. Talking and holding a phone is a double distraction….physically and mentally.The ban is especially necessary on highways or any high speed roads.
    Times have changed.. many cars, so many distractions
    People have walked right into me on the street because they are looking at the phone or distracted by a call.
    Please vote yes.

  169. Do all drivers wear seat belts? They are supposed to but police can’t stop them if they notice that alone. It seems both innefectual and intrusive to ban holding devices while driving because a scofflaw would simply sign off and pocket the device as they were pulling over. It would probably require photographic evidence or mining cell phone records to convict. It would be a big bother for the cops and courts and yet more Big Brother for us.

    What I favor is surcharges on fines if there is a driving violation or accident and a driver is clearly on the phone, coupled with a determined campaign to end this behavior. It worked pretty well to reduce DUI incidents, so why not start hammering the message home that if you drive and cell, sooner or later you may end up in one.

  170. Will, the difference between eating a meatball sub or fumbling with a map while driving is the commonality of occurrence. Cell phones in cars are far more common than sub sandwiches and thus they are a far greater hazard. As a pedestrian and cyclist I would feel far safer if cell phones were banned while driving.

    1. Speaking of fumbling for a map – which I have been guilty of many times – one day in Kansas I once passed an old dude on an interstate going 60 MPH with a Bible propped up on his steering wheel. I hope Jesus was piloting him.

      At that time, there were drive-through windows at liquor stores and bars in some Western states. Maybe still are. You could even get cocktails to go.

      And if eating a sandwich behind the wheel is also a dangerous distraction, why do most fast food restaurants have drive-throughs? It Should have been banned long ago.

      Bottom line is there are too many temptations out there that drivers can succumb to that can impair their attention. Until cars drive themselves, the only real answer is education, starting early, and lots of it.

  171. Since I don’t think that a simple, clear unbiased law can be passed presently, I think that we should wait for the technology to improve to the point of where the cell phone is totally “voice operated” that doesn’t require any more attention than talking to your friend while he/she is in the car with you. It won’t be far off for this technology to become cheap and available to everyone.

  172. PLEASE ban calling and texting while operating any moving vehicle – including bikes. People are so distracted that they do very stupid, dangerous things.
    Thanks for asking !

  173. Will, What I liked about you from the start was that you’re able to learn over a wide range of areas. You’re a good guy. However, we have a real problem in getting to work. The commute is completely messed up over the years. I can’t rely on the T. I have to drive late at night to pick up family members stranded by missed routes, and now even my toddler tells me he has nightmares about missed T routes leaving him stranded. I am on the road for hours a day on messed up streets. DOT is horrible, frankly. They close and open lanes willy-nilly, replace lane lines in the wrong places or have multiple lane markers that confuse drivers, and they do it at the worst possible timing if at all possible, like closing the access ramp lanes at Harvard the first week of school even though there is no work going on there. And you want to care about cell phone use? Cart before the horse!

    1. To be fair, the senator has done tremendous work on transit. But this is a bill coming up for a vote soon. He doesn’t set the calendar.

  174. 100 Washington St. #6

    I am not in favor of more government intervention in my personal space (house and car). Keep in mind this “safety” measure is backed up by the power to penalize and arrest. The potential for abuse as the state and police discover an additional revenue source is also there. It seems the government just cannot do enough to protect us from ourselves; but government help tends to be unwieldy, arbitrary, and sometimes brutal. A wise citizen and legislator will just say “No, thank you!”

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