The media has been doing a lot of broadcasting and publishing recently – very justifiably – on the subject of the Massachusetts Legislature’s shameful failure to act promptly in passing a revised distracted driving bill in this state. In the meantime, the lives of millions of drivers on the roads of Massachusetts remain at heightened risk due to people using their cell phones while behind the wheel. Distracted driving – whether talking on a phone, texting, or surfing through apps – is killing people every month that state government fails to crack down – as in, “Big Time.’
When is this Roadshow of Russian Roulette going to cease?
Don’t ask the Legislature: Most of them are too busy finding excuses to grow backbones, with the majority in the Massachusetts House of Representatives buckling under the weight of monied interests, or political pathos, or both.
The Massachusetts state senate passed a distracted driving measure about a year ago, but the House has failed to take any action on its side, leaving the bill languishing.
The senate’s bill merely required drivers to either use Bluetooth or hands-free options for voice calling when driving, or face potential fines as much as $500 for using a hand-held phone behind the wheel. (Obviously, the bill excepted any drivers that were using a phone without hands-free during emergency.) This stunning inaction is in the face of the fact that a full8 0 percent of Massachusetts voters support a ban on hand-held smartphones and other devices while driving a motor vehicle. If you’re wondering where Massachusetts ranks in the U.S. when it comes to distracted driving, we come in at No.10. Pretty damn high. As a Boston-area car accident lawyer, I can assure you, that’s pretty dangerous (not to mention, embarrassing.) In what adds insult to injury, to his great credit Governor Baker has admirably made it clear that he would sign a measure banning hand-held cell phone use — if the Legislature would only deliver a bill to him. That can’t be done without action from the House.
The excuses that have come out of the House leadership, as well as some individual members, is shameful, cowardly, and pathetic. One state representative, Byron Rushing from Boston, who is a member of the House leadership, has actually claimed that his concerns about the legislation arise from his fear that (sit down for this one) – such a law would actually be abused by police to “make increased traffic stops of minorities.” This is what you call a pathetic excuse. The far more likely reason that the House leadership isn’t acting? The five-letter word that drives everything on Beacon Hill: Money. The technology industry that manufactures these mobile devices and the companies that provide wireless services, all want us using these devices as much as possible. In fact, they may as well text you that message (without charge, of course.)
I’ll say it again, as a Massachusetts distracted driving lawyer: Turn that phone off when you’re in the car. Do NOT look at it or hold it. The life (or neck) you save, may be your own.