After hours of debate, Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced last Thursday that the Senate 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. Passage of this bill puts Massachusetts in line with Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York and eleven other states that have banned the use of handheld devices for all drivers. Forty-six states, including Massachusetts, currently ban texting while driving.
“The use of mobile devices while driving is a serious issue that we see all too often,” said Sen. Moore. “Whether on highways or back roads, it’s hard not to find a distracted driver whose attention is focused on their phone. With thousands of lives at risk, this issue merits a legislative response.”
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.
This well intended legislation was amended by Messrs. Timilty and Ross to exempt public safety personal or emergency first responders using a mobile electronic device in the course of their official duty. If there is merit in the law, which I suspect there is, it should apply equally to all drivers in the state of Massachusetts. Our elected officials have passed too many local, state, and federal laws that apply to the general public, but exempt government employees and public servants (politicians). This is the definition of hypocrisy.