Senate Passes Hands Free Driving Bill

We share this press release from the Senate President’s office on the Senate’s passage of a Hands Free Driving Bill. The bill now moves on to the House of Representatives.

For Immediate Release

January 21, 2016

Senate Passes Hands Free Driving Bill

Boston-The Massachusetts Senate, after a robust debate, today passed legislation that would ban the use of mobile devices while driving. According to the National Safety Council, distracted driving accounted for 26 percent of the 30,000 lives lost in motor vehicle accidents in 2013.

The bill, Senate 2093, sponsored by Senators Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), and Cynthia Creem (D-Newton), implements penalties for operating a vehicle while holding a mobile electronic device to, or in proximity of a person’s head.

Passage of this bill puts Massachusetts in line with Connecticut, New Hampshire and New York. Forty-six states currently ban texting while driving for all drivers and fourteen states ban the use of handheld devices for all drivers.

“Distracted driving is a serious public safety issue that causes too many accidents and fatalities every year. Banning hand held devices while driving will make our roads safer for all,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst).   “One of the fundamental responsibilities of government is to protect public safety and this legislation will reduce accidents and deaths.”

“It is critical for motorist and pedestrian safety that we join the fourteen other states that have already passed similar legislation. Prohibiting the use of hand held devices will also remove a major impediment to law enforcement charged with enforcing the current texting ban. As a vocal critic of the significant weaknesses in the current law, I look forward to working toward the successful passage of this important piece of legislation so that we may significantly reduce the number of horrific injuries and carnage caused by distracted drivers.” said Senator Mark Montigny who has filed hands free legislation since 2004.

“I believe that this legislation will save lives here in Massachusetts,” said Senator Cynthia Creem. “Not only will it protect motorists, but it will also make our roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians by ensuring that drivers are paying attention to the road, and not to their cellphone.”

In 2010 the legislature banned texting while driving but did not ban the use of handheld devices for talking or other purposes. The 2010 law banned handheld use for 16 and 17 year olds. The law has been difficult to enforce and hands free technology has improved significantly since the passage of the 2010 law.

Under the bill, an initial violation results in a $100 fine, a second time offense is a $250 fine, and any subsequent offense is a $500 fine and would be considered moving violations for insurance purposes.

The bill now moves on to the House of Representatives for consideration.