House Passes Legislation to Curb Distracted Driving

Representative Mike Connolly, together with his Cambridge and Somerville colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, recently voted to pass H.3149, An Act requiring the hands-free use of mobile telephones while driving to ban automobile drivers from using hand-held electronic devices in vehicles (unless the devices are in hands-free mode).

"Distracted driving due to cell phone use is preventable and accounts for far too many roadway fatalities, so this is a very important step forward for our Commonwealth," Rep. Connolly said. "With this step, our roads are now closer to being safer for all users.” 

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.

In addition, Rep. Connolly was proud to support efforts made by the Black and Latino Caucus to strengthen the racial justice and data collection components of this bill, and he will continue to work with the caucus to support their efforts during the conference committee process.

The bill has now passed both the House and Senate and is being considered by a conference committee to reconcile differences between both chambers' versions.