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House Passes Distracted Driving Legislation

BOSTON, MAY 16 – Yesterday Representative Bill Driscoll Jr., (D-Milton) together with his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed legislation to ban drivers from using hand-held electronic devices in vehicles unless they are in hands-free mode.

“Distracted driving is a factor in too many dangerous and fatal motor vehicle accidents, and the House is proud to take this step to move this policy forward for Massachusetts – making our roads safer and protecting our drivers, passengers and pedestrians,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I want to thank Chair Straus for his diligence and hard work, and Leader Wagner, Chair Michlewitz, members of the Black and Latino Caucus, and my colleagues in the House who were instrumental to this process.”

“The House was nearly unanimous in voting for this legislation. I hope that the Senate and Governor concur quickly and we implement these common sense safety measures once and for all,” said Rep. Bill Driscoll Jr., (D-Milton)

“This legislation makes clear that drivers must keep their hands and eyes on the road and not on cell phones,” said Rep. Bill Straus (D-Mattapoisett), Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation. “The Committee has received extensive testimony showing that cell phone use is a top threat to safety on our roads today.”

“I am proud to support the hands-free legislation that was passed by the House today,” said Assistant Majority Leader Representative Joseph F. Wagner (D-Chicopee). “This bill is a collaborative approach that will save lives and make the Commonwealth’s roadways safer by prohibiting the dangerous behavior of distracted driving.”

“Today the House took a big step towards making the roads of the Commonwealth safer for everyone by passing this legislation,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “Distracted driving is a serious issue, and I am proud that the House took this step in order to combat it.”

The bill defines hands-free devices as those that engage in voice communication with and receiving audio without touching, holding or otherwise manually manipulating the device. Law enforcement officials have the ability to issue warnings to drivers until Dec. 31, 2019 before the law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The bill will also:

  • Allow for drivers to use mapping or navigation devices if they are affixed to the windshield or integrated into the vehicle and only involve a tap or a swipe;

  • Exempt use of electronics in the case of an emergency and for first responders if they are using the devices as part of their duties;

  • Penalize drivers with fines $100 for the first offence, $250 for the second offence and $500 for third and subsequent offences;

  • Builds off and bolsters existing law by creating compliance measures, requiring the inclusion of race on the uniform citation, and extending this practice to all jurisdictions;

  • Invests $300,000 towards data collection and analysis by an outside entity;

  • Requires jurisdictions – if data suggests those jurisdictions may be engaging in racial profiling – to collect data on all traffic stops for a one-year period; and

  • Create a public awareness campaign informing and educating the dangers of using technological devises while driving and the obligations of drivers under this bill.

The bill will now go to the Senate.

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