Hands-free phone measure advances in Massachusetts House

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2015/11/18/hands-free-phone-measure-advances-in-massachusetts-house/

BOSTON – Bay State lawmakers are pushing forward a bill that would permit only hands-free cell phone use while driving in Massachusetts.

Currently, engaging in text messaging while driving is illegal, as is any cell phone use by minors while behind the wheel. The measure proposed by state Rep. William Straus (D-Mattapoisett), the co-chairman of the joint House-Senate Transportation Committee, would bar all drivers from using a handheld phone while operating a car or truck.

Exceptions for the proposed ban would be made for emergency situations such as reporting an accident or disabled vehicle, or to request immediate medical attention or police assistance, according to the text of the legislation.

Cell phone use would still be allowed, but only when connected to in-car wireless technology such as Bluetooth. Several similar bills have also been filed.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted for the bill, H 3315, Tuesday with no discussion, State House News Service reported. A second favorable vote is needed in the House before the measure can move to the Senate for consideration.

Fourteen states have similar laws, including other New England states like New Hampshire, Connecticut and Vermont, according to the Associated Press.

At any given moment nationwide, around 660,000 drivers use mobile phones or manipulate electronic devices while driving, according to the National Occupant Protection Use Surveys. It says the number has remained stable for the past five years. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Distraction.gov website reported 3,154 deaths from distracted driving in 2013, a 6.7 percent drop from 2012.

A spokesman for Gov. Charlie Baker told WCVB-TV in August that the Republican leader had not committed to signing legislation but does take road safety improvements seriously.

Contact Kara Bettis at [email protected] or on Twitter at @karabettis