BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — A bill to ban handheld cell phone use while driving has passed in the Massachusetts Senate, and will now go to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk.
The distracted driving measure bans the use of all hand-held devices behind the wheel, while allowing hands-free use and the viewing of GPS maps.
After years of hurdles, a compromise on the bill was reached by a conference committee over the weekend. On Wednesday, the Senate approved the compromise bill nearly unanimously, 38-1.
Now, Gov. Baker has ten days to sign the bill into law, and it would go into effect 90 days after receiving his signature. A spokesperson for Gov. Baker's office said he'll carefully review the legislation.
The bill also requires state agencies to track the age, gender, and race of every driver who gets a warning, in order to monitor for racial profiling by police.
Sen. Mark Montigny said it's the relatives of loved ones lost to distracted driving who helped to finally get the bill passed.
"It's embarrassing that we're talking about it today, but when I think of the courage and the persistence of the families, it's worth not celebrating, but feeling relief," he said.
Some of those families were in the Senate chamber when the bill passed on a 38-1 vote.
Thomas Brannelly's 24-year-old daughter, Katie, was killed by a distracted driver. He's been fighting since then to help get this measure passed, and said there have been a lot of sleepless nights.
"It's over, it's just over, and I'm glad it's over," he said. "People are going to be safer now on the roads. Katie would be proud."
Emily Stein of the Safe Roads Alliance has been fighting for a hands-free law for years, after her father was killed by a distracted driver. She's relieved about the passage, and explained what she told lawmakers when she urged them to pass the measure.
"Go home to your families on Thanksgiving and tell them that you helped to save lives by passing this bill, because there are too many families who have an empty chair at the table this Thanksgiving," she said.
WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe (@KimWBZ) reports