In a move already taken by a handful of states, the Massachusetts state Senate recently passed a bill that would ban all hand-held cell phone use by drivers. Hands-free devices would be allowed, but using a hand-held phone or other device (such as a GPS) would be punishable by a fine.
Several states have already passed similar laws, including Illinois, New York, and California. Indiana hasn’t taken this step yet, but began enforcing a complete ban on cell phone use by drivers under the age of 21 last July.
No state bans all cell phone use behind the wheel for all drivers, but the majority forbid their use by teen drivers. Texting by all drivers is now banned by 46 states plus the District of Columbia. Indiana has had that law on the books since 2011.
Distracted driving is a serious problem nationwide. According to the latest information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2013 over 420,000 people were injured and more than 3,100 killed in accidents caused by distracted drivers. Distracted driving has many causes, and cell phone use is only part of the problem, but it’s received a lot of attention in recent years. One study cited by NHTSA claims that at any given daylight moment there are approximately 660,000 drivers using a cell phone or other device.
Massachusetts lawmakers hope their ban (which has yet to be signed into law) will save lives. Supporters hope it will lead to safer, more focused driving. But not everyone agrees. AAA Northeast, which serves Massachusetts and other New England states, believes that hands-free devices are just as dangerous as hand-held ones. They accept that the law is better than nothing, but emphasize that “hands free is not risk free.” AAA supports the bill in part because they expect it to lead to better enforcement of the current texting-while-driving ban in Massachusetts. Violations of that law are seen as difficult to prove because a violator can claim they were not texting but only talking on their phone.
Driving and Devices Do Not Mix
The idea of a total hand-held ban has been floated in Indiana but it hasn’t gone far. However, high-profile incidents like the January 16th crash that killed a Lafayette driving instructor may move lawmakers toward a tipping point. The driver of a pickup crossed the road and hit another vehicle, injuring the other driver and the instructor, who died of his injuries the next day. The pickup driver has been charged with using a telecommunications device while driving, after a preliminary investigation showed he may have been texting at the time of the accident.
Automobile Accident Attorneys
If you or someone close to you has been injured in an accident that involved a distracted driver, you should seek legal help. The law firm of Wilson Kehoe Winingham understands automobile accident law, and can put its experience to work for you. We offer a free consultation to all prospective clients. Give us a call at 317-920-6400 or contact us online today to discuss your case.