State lawmakers seek to bolster distracted driving laws

Massachusetts lawmakers are debating a bill that would ban handheld devices while driving.

In Massachusetts it is illegal to text and drive, but that law says nothing about talking on a cellphone, checking social media, or taking pictures while behind the wheel of a car. As the Worcester Telegram reports, state lawmakers are seeking to change that by bolstering Massachusetts' distracted driving laws. A bill that recently cleared the Transportation Committee would ban drivers from holding a cellphone to do such things as make a call, check Facebook, or take a selfie. Supporters of the bill say that with over a fifth of fatal motor vehicle accidents in Massachusetts caused by distracted driving, it is time for the state to introduce stronger measures against the dangerous practice.

Targeting distracted driving

While Massachusetts' current texting and driving ban is well intentioned, that 2010 law fails to address the many other ways people now use their smartphones, such as by checking social media and taking pictures. Furthermore, the texting and driving ban does not address the very real danger of talking on a cellphone while trying to drive.

That's why the Transportation Committee recently unanimously approved a bill that would make it illegal to hold a cellphone in order to make a call, access social media, engage the phone's camera, or perform other functions that require the driver to take at least one hand off the wheel. Essentially the proposal bans the use of all handheld devices while driving. The bill would make an exception for drivers who need to make an emergency call as well as for police and firefighters who need to use their mobile devices as part of their job duties. Additionally, drivers would be permitted to use their phone as a hands-free device.

The growing threat of distracted driving

Advocates for the tougher distracted driving law point out that simply banning the sending and receiving of messages fails to capture just how widespread of a problem distracted driving has become. As the Greenfield Recorder reports, in 2015 about 21 percent of the 291 fatal accidents that occurred in Massachusetts were at least partially caused by distracted drivers. Furthermore, fatal accidents have been soaring nationwide in recent years at a pace not seen in half a century. That rapid increase is widely believed to be at least partly due to the prevalence of smartphones and distracted driving.

Personal injury law

A motor vehicle accident can be a harrowing experience and one that is made all the more difficult when it is found out that the other driver was distracted or otherwise behaving recklessly at the time of the accident. Anybody who has been hurt in an accident caused by such a driver should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can help accident victims in a number of important ways, including by helping them pursue financial compensation that could prove tremendously helpful on their road to recovery.