By Diana DiZoglio – Sept. 2019
Hello Valley Patriot Readers,
Distracted driving, the act of driving while engaging in other activities that divert the driver’s attention away from the road, has become an epidemic on our roadways. We’ve all seen the constant news headlines reporting car crashes and fatalities.
Take, for instance, a recent early-morning crash in Lincoln, MA, as a driver, distracted while looking down at his phone, drove off the road and into trees, totaling his vehicle and sustaining serious injuries. Or another recent accident, this time on the Mass Pike in Boston, in which a distracted driver, while tinkering with his GPS, rear-ended and ultimately injured a state trooper.
Other accidents result in tragedy, with distracted driving resulting in an average of nine deaths each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Distracted driving is now among the leading causes of car crashes, with accidents increasing by more than 170 percent in Massachusetts in recent years. The legislature passed a ban on texting while driving in 2010 but, with the steady rise of smart phones, motorists these days are also prone to checking e-mails and scrolling through various social media feeds, leaving that 2010 law outdated and in need of reform.
This summer, for a third consecutive legislative session, the Massachusetts State Senate unanimously approved a bill requiring hands-free use of all mobile devices while driving. The legislation, Senate Bill 2216, An Act preventing distracted driving, prohibits the use of electronic devices behind the wheel, with the exception of a tap or swipe to enable hands-free mode.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives also recently passed a distracted driving bill, though with differences from the Senate version.
While both bills have the same intent in prohibiting virtually all handheld device usage, the Senate version requires drivers take a class after a second offense and categorizes third and subsequent violations as surchargeable offenses for insurance. This is not in the House version, nor does the House bill include the Senate’s requirement to collect racial and ethnic data on all traffic stops as a means to track profiling or biased application of the new restrictions.
A Conference Committee, made up of Senate and House members, was ultimately formed to combine the proposals into a compromise bill. They were unable, however, to reach an agreement prior to the legislature’s August recess.
We in the legislature have a responsibility to do all we can to increase safety on our roadways across the Commonwealth. Nineteen states, including New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, have passed laws prohibiting handheld cellphone use while driving.
It is imperative that members of both the Senate and House come together as soon as possible to reach a compromise on this common sense public safety legislation that will prevent the injuries, property damage and loss of life that we all too often have seen as a result of distracted driving.
Yours in service,
If you have any questions on this or any other piece of legislation, please feel free to contact me anytime via email at email@example.com or phone at (617) 722-1604. ◊