BOSTON – Today, the Massachusetts State Senate passed a piece of legislation which claims will reduce motor vehicle accidents and fatalities by prohibiting the use of ALL hand held electronic mobile devices while operating a motor vehicle.
“The technological capabilities of cell phones have given drivers more opportunities to become distracted at the wheel,” said State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives.
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.
Today’s passage of Senate Bill 2092, “An Act to Prevent Driver Distraction and Motor Vehicle Fatalities” responds to the concerns of law enforcement officials over the difficulty of enforcing the texting ban implemented in September 2010.
While the 2010 law prohibited drivers from composing, sending, or reading text messages, the handling of mobile devices was banned outright only for individuals under the age of 18.
Senate Bill 2092 bans the use of mobile electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle unless the devices are used in hands-free mode. It further prohibits drivers from touching or holding a mobile electronic device except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function. This prohibition includes accessing the internet to compose, send, or read an electronic message or to input information by hand into a global positioning system or navigation device while operating a motor vehicle.
Included in this bill were several amendments that State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-SALISBURY) supported, including the mandatory requirement for Registry of Motor Vehicles distracted driving training for a second or third violations of the law. All of which will bear a cost on the driver.
This amendment was filed by Senator Michael Moore (D-SHREWSBURY), and an amendment prohibiting a person from holding a mobile electronic device in their lap while operating a motor vehicle, filed by Senator Eileen Donoghue.
Use of a mobile electronic device is permitted for emergency purposes, including reporting a disabled motor vehicle; that medical attention or assistance is required; that police intervention, fire department or other emergency service is necessary; or that a disabled vehicle or an accident is present in the roadway.
First offenders would be issued a $100 fine, a second offense would be a fine of $250, and a third offense would be a $500 fine and would be considered a moving violation and surchargeable event for auto insurance purposes.
The state relied on statistics from the National Safety Council, which claims that distracted driving accounted for 26 percent of the 30,000 lives lost in motor vehicle accidents in 2013.
They also claim:
* In 2015 alone, 3477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
* During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S roads.
*Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.
* Five seconds is the average time a driver’s eyes are taken off the road while reading or sending a text message. At 55 mph, those five seconds are enough to cover the length of a football field. The result has been an estimated one million motor vehicle accidents and 3,000 fatalities a year caused by distracted driving.
“Sending a text message or typing a destination in a GPS, multiplied by several times on a highway, quickly becomes a public safety issue.”
Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia prohibit drivers from using handheld mobile devices, including New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Vermont.
The bill now moves to the Massachusetts House of Representatives for their consideration.