Senate Approves Hands-Free Cellphone Bill 40-0 in Distracted Driving Victory

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For the third consecutive session, the Massachusetts Senate has approved legislation requiring hands-free use of all mobile devices while driving, but this time the House and Gov. Charlie Baker are on board too.

The State House News Service reports senators voted unanimously 40-0 this week to approve the bill, which bans the use of phones and similar technology behind the wheel save for a single tap or swipe to enable a hands-free mode. They had passed similar legislation passed twice before, but those bills died in the House.

The House approved its own version of similar legislation 155-2 last month. The two bills have some differences, most significantly regarding collection of racial and ethnic data at traffic stops to track for bias, that leaders will need to reconcile in order to move a bill to the governor's desk.

After Thursday’s session, Senate President Karen Spilka said she is optimistic that her branch can work out a final version with House leadership “pretty quickly” and that, whenever legislation lands on Baker's desk, it will be “a very good day for the commonwealth.”

The Senate bill would ban virtually any handheld use of smartphones or other devices, allowing drivers to make only one tap or swipe to activate or deactivate a hands-free mode or to launch GPS directions.

Those who violate the new law would be fined $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for third and subsequent offenses, which would also count as surchargeable penalties for insurance purposes.

The measures do not apply to first-responders who are working emergency cases.

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