February 4th the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill banning texting while driving and requiring drivers to use a hands free device. The bill also restricts the use of cell phones by anyone under the age of 18 and requires drivers over 75 years to have a mandatory vision exam when their license is renewed every five years. A great success the legislation passed through the Massachusetts House of Representatives with a land slide vote of 146 to 9. However it has not been passed into law just yet, the bill must endure the senate’s scrutiny as well. If the legislation makes it to law it will make Massachusetts the 20th state to ban texting while driving and the 7th state to ban direct use of a hand-held cell phone.
Although strong support for bill was evident in the House of Representatives the legislation still needs to pass through the Senate to be enforced. Some opponents of the bill believe it impedes on the citizens civil rights and liberties. However a great number of representatives, including State Representative Carl Sciortino, believe the drivers safety and health take precedence. A similar bill was proposed the the Massachusetts government however never made it to law. Massachusetts Representatives, even some who approved the legislation, remain mixed about how strict they believe cell phone laws should be.
If the new legislation passes through the Massachusetts Senate violators will be charged $100 on the first offense, $250 on the second offense, and $500 on the third offense. The bill allows for insurance companies to decide for themselves whether or not to add a surcharge to drivers rates should they abuse cell phone use while driving. Also drivers under age 18 caught violating any of the restrictions found in the new legislation would have their license suspended. The new bill, if passed, is not to be taken lightly as made obvious by serious consequences if violated.
Thursday the Massachusetts House passed a bill that would make it the 7th state requiring drivers to use a hands free device behind the wheel and 20th state to ban texting. This is not the House’s first attempt to pass these types of laws. Two years ago a similar measure was passed by the House however soon after died in the Senate. There it was believed the hands free device was more of an inconvenience that did not improve drivers safety.
The new bill was approved this last week by a House vote of 146 to 9. This restriction however was not the only provision held in the legislation. It would also ban drivers from text messaging behind the wheel, prohibit the use of cell phones behind the wheel of those 18 years and under, and require drivers over 75 to take a vision test every 5 years. Drivers are currently required to renew their license every 5 years, however only take a vision test every 10 years. This bill would enforce stricter driving laws many feel are overdue.
Drivers who are caught texting or talking without a hands-free-device would be fined on the first offense $100, on the second offense $250, and a whopping $500 on the third offense. The bill would allow insurance companies to decide themselves whether a surcharge will be used if the new restrictions are passed. Drivers under 18 years caught using a cell phone behind the wheel would have their license suspended.
Senate members have mixed feelings about how strict these laws should actually be. Previous studies have suggested talking on a hands free device verses the actual phone leave drivers equally distracted by the conversation. Some members of the senate are pushing for the hands free device to aid law enforcement’s efforts. A point was made that if texting was banned however the hands free portion of the bill was not passed, how would officers know if a driver was placing a call or sending a text message? Looks as if we’ll just have to wait and see what the Senate as a whole makes of it.
It’s amazing what younger generations can accomplish with a few clicks of their cell phone. From making plans for the evening and shopping online to ordering a meal to go, texting and smart phones make life more convenient. While the novelty and ease of communication via texting is widely used, the dangers of this activity behind the wheel must be taken seriously. Many may say something to the effect of, “What? It’s not like I’m drinking and driving!” Which is the truth, the reaction time of someone with a blood alcohol content of .08 reacts four times more quickly than when they are texting sober according to a study by CarandDriver. While 17 states ban texting and driving and 7 states ban complete hand held cell use behind the wheel the temptation may still remain.
When the dangers are this evident that even driving drunk may be safer than texting should make someone think twice before picking up that cell phone behind the wheel. If you struggle with the temptation to check that e-mail or text here are a few ways to avoid it:
Give yourself a reality check and watch this video the Today Show featured in a texting & driving segment.
If you’re trying to find an address, pull over and park before checking your phone.
If you have someone in the car with you ask them to help you break the texting habit.
Place your cell phone out of reach.
If this isn’t enough to stop you, turn your cell phone off.
Massachusetts DOT has an extensive list of driving distractions they’ve been aware of for quite some time. From drinking and driving to music on the radio, Massachusetts government is moving texting to the top of that list.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approximately, “80 percent of all accidents are caused by driver inattention.” (DOT to you: Don’t Text and Drive). With technology advancing at lightning speed we have everything from the radio and video displays to our cell phones to distract us.
Massachusetts Department of Transportation is serious about cutting down distractions. Currently 17 states ban texting and driving, is Massachusetts next? Keep a close eye out September 30th and October 1st when the U.S. Department of transportation convenes in Washington D.C. to discuss it.
Do you text and drive? Maybe you’re on your way to work updating your co-worker on the details of a big account. Or maybe you’re getting the directions for your saturday night out. More and more businesses are saying, “Not on our time!”
AMEC, a global engineering firm, banned cell phone usage while driving on company time. Bill Windory, an associate VP of safety for Nationwide Insurance noted:
“Early on, companies said, ‘Hey, phoning and driving is great. This will give us all kinds of increased productivity’… [However] now, we’re at a point where we better understand the risks involved.” – ‘Can’t Talk Now’ by Maggie Jackson of the Boston Globe.
If you text and drive take into consideration the lives you are putting on the line. Pull off the road and stop to read your text or make that phone call. If you are distracted and hit another driver, or worse a pedestrian, you’ll not only have cost yourself in auto insurance premiums, you may have cost a life.