Bay State Committee Approves Bill to Ban Hand-Held Cell Phone Use

In late January, the Joint Transportation Committee in the Massachusetts state legislature unanimously approved a bill that, if passed by the house and senate, would ban all hand-held cell phone use in the Bay State.

If the bill becomes law, Massachusetts would join nine other states that ban hand-held cell phone use while driving. The bill exempts Bluetooth and hands-free use of phones from its provisions.

Current Massachusetts distracted driving law prohibits all cell phone use by bus drivers and new drivers, as well as texting by all drivers. All laws are primary offenses, meaning that drivers can be pulled over for violating these laws. So far, Massachusetts has not taken steps to ban hand-held or hands-free cell phone use.

Proponents of the bill say it is a nice continuation of the state's Safe Driving Law passed in 2010. In fact, the House of Representatives has passed some incarnation of a hand-held ban twice. The Senate, however, has had a harder time throwing its support behind the bill. In 2010, it rejected a hand-held ban 18 to 16.

Some critics of the ban believe that prohibiting hand-held use does not eliminate the real distraction: the conversation. However, others say that a hand-held cell phone ban would help drivers keep both hands on the wheel and keep their eyes on the road and not on a phone.

Although people may argue over the effectiveness of cell phone bans, what are indisputable are the disastrous consequences of driving while distracted. In 2009, 16 percent of all fatal car accidents in the United States involved distracted driving, and in that same year, one-fifth of all crashes ending in the injury of one or more parties were caused by distracted drivers.

Furthermore, a study by Monash University found that drivers who use hand-held cell phones and other devices are four times more likely to cause an accident severe enough to inflict injury on themselves.

Fortunately, the joint committee has allowed further discussion of a bill that would help keep all road users safer. Banning the use of hand-held cell phones would keep drivers' eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

If you or a loved one have been involved in a crash that was caused by distracted driving, please contact an experienced personal injury attorney.