Gov. Baker Set To Sign Distracted Driving Bill

Man using smartphone whilst driving

(Getty Images)

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Gov. Charlie Baker plans to sign a bill into law Monday that will prevent drivers from using hand-held devices like cell phones behind the wheel.

Baker is set to sign the bill at 3 p.m. during a ceremony in the State House Library, joined by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Senate President Karen Spilka, Safe Roads alliance President Emily Stein, and other road safety advocates.

The bill landed on Baker's desk last week after a compromise measure was passed by the House and Senate. The legislation requires drivers to use their phone in a "hands-free mode" like Bluetooth, or another device. The law allows for a "single tap or swipe," to activate or deactivate the device.

Operators would also be allowed to look at a GPS device mounted on their car's windshield, dashboard, or a center console that does not distract a driver. Drivers are explicitly prevented from holding any mobile device, according to the legislation.

"This is not a regulation on freedom. This is saying that if you are getting into a vehicle that can go 60 miles an hour and weighs 2,000 pounds, you need to be extra careful. And if you aren't, there are consequences," said Stacey Thompson of The Liveable Streets Alliance, an organization that advocates for safe driving laws.

The bill imposes a $100 fine for a first offence, $250 for a second, and $500 for any defense after that, however there is a grace period through March 31 during which a violator will only receive a warning for their first violation.

The legislation also would require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to collect data, including a person’s race, gender, and age, from all citations issued. That information would be part of an annual "aggregate analysis" that the state’s secretary of public safety would also be required to release.

The new law would take effect 90 days after passage, meaning that if Baker signs the law Monday, it would take effect on Feb. 23.

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