The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted last week to approve to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. The House voted 107-47 to abolish the current law, which allows drivers to hold their cell phones in their hand as long as one hand stays on the steering wheel at all times. This isn’t the first time the Massachusetts Legislature has considered a cell phone ban, there have been more than a dozen bills filed in the past year that have gone nowhere.
This bill also makes it illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to use cell phones while driving, EVEN if they have hands-free components. Junior Operators face a 60 day license suspension for the first offense, 180 day license suspension for the second offense, and a 1 year suspension for any subsequent violations. All drivers caught driving with a cell phone will face a $100 dollar fine for a first offense, a $250 dollar fine for a second offense and $500 for any subsequent offense.
The penalties are fairly severe. The new push for this law came after one teenager was killed by a driver who was texting, and another who was in a deadly accident, moments after receiving a text message.
There is an amendment to the bill that allows drivers to dial their phone, as long as they then use an earpiece or speaker phone. Also, (and this should probably go without saying) the bill bans the use of PDA’s and laptops while driving. GPS devices and audio equipment are not included in the ban.
Getting stopped for using a cell phone while driving, either not using hands free, or if you are under 18 using a cell phone AT ALL will count as a moving violation on your driving record and will result in surcharge points on your insurance.
For now, the law still is not in effect. We will have to wait and watch what the Senate does with the bill.
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