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The Massachusetts Senate is set to vote Thursday on a bill that would ban the use of hand-held devices while operating a vehicle, marking yet another step forward for the legislation that aims to prevent distracted driving.

Three weeks after the House overwhelmingly passed its own version of the ban, the Senate will consider requiring hands-free use of mobile devices while driving, except when the device requires “a single tap or swipe to activate, deactivate or initiate the hands-free mode feature.”

Senate President Karen E. Spilka said the bill will pass because similar legislation was OK’d in the Senate in each of its last two sessions. Governor Charlie Baker has already indicated his support as well.


“I do believe that this bill will be on the governor’s desk and will become law,” Spilka said in an interview. “And I do believe that this will decrease accidents, injuries, and fatalities.”

The House held up the legislation in recent years because some lawmakers expressed concerns that such a law would increase racial profiling from law enforcement. The Senate bill requires recording the “perceived race and ethnicity” of each driver stopped, which lawmakers have said will help combat racial profiling.

The provision slightly differs from the House bill, which requires police officers to record the race of drivers only when they are issued a warning or a citation.

“We want to try to make sure that this law does not lead to a disparate impact in certain communities or any community for that matter,” Spilka said. “I think gathering data to the best that we can makes sense and then we take a look at it, and certainly try to improve upon that as the time goes on.”

Senators have proposed a total of 29 amendments, including proposals that would allow exceptions for drivers to make emergency calls and require law enforcement officials to collect data for each stop.


Proposed fines for violating the hands-free bill are $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second, and $500 for the third and subsequent offenses. Drivers would be required to complete a program aimed at changing driver behavior and attitudes about distracted driving after the second offense.

Several of Massachusetts’s neighboring states, such as New Hampshire, Vermont, and Rhode Island, have hands-free driving laws on the books.

Aidan Ryan can be reached at aidan.ryan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AidanRyanNH.