Thursday, January 24, 2008

House Passes Limits on Cell Phones While Driving

Yesterday, the House passed H4477, AN ACT FURTHER REGULATING THE USE OF CERTAIN COMMUNICATION DEVICES WHILE OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE. While the bill has received a great deal of attention because it specifically bans text messaging while driving, it actually bans all use of hand-held cellphones and other electronic devices.

Drivers over 18 may use cellphones with hands-free capability. "A violation of this section shall be punishable by a fine of $100 for a first offense, by a fine of $250 for a second offense and by a fine of $500 for a third or subsequent offense."

Drivers under 18 may not use cellphones at all, even with hands-free headsets. In addition to the fines above, a junior operator who violates the law will have their license or permit suspended for 60 days for a first offense, 180 days for a second offense, and a full year for a third offense.

Exceptions are provided for calls to emergency services. According to the Boston Globe, "an amendment approved yesterday stipulates that drivers can use their hands to dial and hang up the phone without a violation, as long as they use an earpiece or speakerphone during their calls."

The Senate has yet to vote on the measure. The Globe reports, "knowledgeable Senate source said Senate President Therese Murray is not likely to bring the measure up for a vote in the near term."