Governor Charlie Baker plans to sign into law on Monday a bill that would ban drivers from using hand-held devices like cell phones, according to a copy of his schedule issued by his administration Sunday.
Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito will meet with Senate President Karen Spilka, Safe Roads Alliance President Emily Stein, road safety advocates, and legislators in the State House Library at 3 p.m. to sign the bill, the schedule said.
The bill was placed on the governor’s desk this past Wednesday after passing in the House and the Senate. Baker has publicly backed a ban on hand-held cellphone use while driving.
Under the law, drivers would have to use their phone in “hands-free mode,” such as through a Bluetooth device, and the law allows for a “single tap or swipe” to activate it or deactivate it. Drivers would also be allowed to look at a GPS device that is mounted to the car’s windshield, dashboard, or center console as long as it does “not impede the operation of the motor vehicle,” according to a copy of the legislation released last Monday by a legislative committee. However, it explicitly bans drivers from holding any mobile electronic device.
Those who are caught will be fined $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second, and $500 for third and subsequent infractions. (There will be a grace period through March 31, where drivers will only get a warning for their first violation, according to the bill.)
The new law would take effect 90 days after it’s passed. If the governor signs it Monday, it would take effect Feb. 23.
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, and for the state’s secretary of public safety to produce an annual public report that includes an “aggregate analysis” of the data.
The bill represents a compromise between the House and Senate, which each passed their own version of the hands-free bill in the spring. This version was drawn up after months of negotiations.
While the bill has gotten approval from safe-driving advocates, activists have expressed concerns that enforcement of the bill could disproportionately impact minorities.
Meanwhile, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union of Masachusetts have taken issue with aspects of the law including language that would prevent the release of raw data gathered by the RMV to entities without a written confidentiality agreement with the state’s public safety secretary.