No more hand-held devices in the car

Beginning in June 2018
Sun, 09/10/2017 - 8:00am

Gov. Gina Raimondo has signed legislation introduced by Sen. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) and Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown) that outlaws the use of any non-hands-free personal wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle, except for public safety personnel or in emergency situations. The new law goes into effect June 1, 2018.

Violators of the provisions of the legislation will be subject to a fine of no more than $100. That fine can be suspended for a first-time violator who provides proof of acquisition of a hands-free accessory subsequent to the violation and prior to the imposition of the fine.

According to a press release issued by the State House, Sosnowski said, “Distracted driving is extremely dangerous, claiming 3,477 lives in 2015 alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And it’s not just texting; talking on the phone while having one hand off of the wheel is equally distracting. Many of us have grown accustomed to using mobile devices in almost every aspect of our lives, including in our cars and trucks. This is especially true for our younger population, which grew up with this kind of technology embedded in their daily lives. It’s important not to forget that every time we step into a vehicle, we are taking our lives and the lives of others into our own hands.”

Rhode Island joins three other New England states in banning hand-held mobile phones for drivers: Connecticut, which has had a ban since 2005; Vermont, which has had a ban since 2014, and New Hampshire, which has banned hand-held phone use for drivers since 2015. Massachusetts leaves the question up to local jurisdictions.

During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads. Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes, according to the press release.

“The hands-free bill is a good idea because distracted-driving is the number one cause of accidents in this country now,” said New Shoreham Police Chief Vin Carlone.

“With each change in technology, it becomes our duty as lawmakers and protectors of our constituency to ensure that we make the appropriate adjustments to our statutes,” Sosnowski said in the press release. “This is primarily about safety. There are already so many dangers and distractions on the road — the least we can do is work to minimize those potential threats.”