By Bob Katzen

This bill bans the use of hand-held cell phones for all drivers but allows them to use a hands-free cell phone.

Penalties on drivers over 18 include a $100 fine for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for subsequent ones. Drivers under 18 would face the same fines as those over 18 but would also be subject to suspension of their license for 60 days for a first offense, 180 days for a second offense and one year for subsequent ones. Third-time and subsequent violations of the law would be considered moving violations and drivers would be subject to surcharges on their auto insurance.

“Distracted driving from unnecessary cell phone use is a major hazard for motorists and pedestrians leading to tragic injuries and loss of life,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford). “Hands-free technology is readily accessible and affordable, and we must act now to save lives and help law enforcement increase roadway safety … There is no more excuse. We must act now.”

Some opponents say that the restriction is another example of government intrusion into people’s cars and lives. Others noted that there are already laws on the books prohibiting driving while distracted and said that the bill is a bonanza for insurance companies that will collect millions of dollars in surcharges.

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