Massachusetts is one step closer to having legislation that would bar any driver from using hand-held cellphones while behind the wheel, according to an AP article.
The Massachusetts Senate recently voted unanimously to approve the bill that would also ramp up the collection of data on traffic stops around the state, after concerns were raised by minority legislators and civil rights advocates that a cellphone law could lead to more racial profiling by law enforcement agencies, according to the article.
The bill calls for a fine of $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a subsequent offense. Those who commit a second or subsequent offense would be required to complete a program that “encourages a change in driver behavior and attitude about distracted driving.”
A third or subsequent violation would also be considered a surchargeable incident under car insurance policies. The bill would allow an exception to using cellphones in the case of an emergency if no one else in the car is able to make the call, according to the article.
Massachusetts House lawmakers approved their version of the bill last month on a 155-2 vote.
Massachusetts currently bars texting while driving and all cellphone use by junior drivers under age 18.
The bill also requires police to collect data for each stop made by police, whether or not the stop results in a citation. The data to be collected includes the reason for the stop, the perceived race or ethnicity of the driver, the gender and age of the driver, and whether a search of the vehicle was conducted, according to the article.
The Senate bill differs from the House version, which stops short of requiring the collection of racial data on all stops. Instead, the House bill requires that data on the race of drivers who are stopped and issued citations or written warnings for traffic infractions be collected and submitted annually to state public safety officials.
If the data collected indicates possible racial profiling by a police department, the House bill would require that law enforcement agency to record racial information on all traffic stops – including those that do not result in a warning or citation – for one year, according to the article.
The Senate and House must now reach agreement on a compromise bill.
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