Hands-free cellphone bill expected to be introduced Monday at State House

Hands-free cellphone bill expected to be introduced Monday at State House

BOSTON — By next week it could be illegal to hold your phone will driving. A hands-free cellphone bill is expected to finally be debated at the State House after being introduced Monday. It could be on the governor's desk as soon as the end of the week to sign into law.

It's already the law in many states. But Monday a bill will be introduced to add Massachusetts to the list of states that ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving.

"This feels like a turning point," said Emily Stein, the president of Safe Roads Alliance.

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Texting is already banned, and some drivers say they support more being done.

"The driving around the city is insane," said Karen Kane of Roslindale. "Heavy traffic, a lot of bad driving, people who are texting and on phones disrupt the flow of traffic."

But not all drivers agree with the change in law.

"Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of young people, but for an adult [not] being able to pick up a phone call or touch a button or use the GPS doesn't make any sense," said Imari Paris Jeffries of Hyde Park.

"I think everyone has a right to talk on the phone," said Stephanie Ruiz of Boston. "I mean just think about single parents who have older model cars and can't afford newer cars, but need to access their children by phone. It's kind of unfair. I can see safety issues, but we have bigger safety issues than talking on the phone."

Emily Stein, who lost her dad to a distracted driver in 2011, says the increase in safety is worth it.

"We say make their call before you drive, make a stop to check for messages," she said. "We survived before cellphones and we can survive with this law."

Those who lost a loved one to distracted driving gathered at the State House Sunday afternoon to push for the change. The most passionate plea though was not from someone who lost a loved one but from a driver who was behind the wheel and responsible for a deadly crash.

"I was an ordinary woman driving home one ordinary night and I killed someone," said Shane Snowdown. "I remind drivers you don’t want to be me, you don't want to spend the rest of your life knowing that you killed somebody."

Texting is already banned, but lawmakers have hesitated to completely ban hand-held phones, many citing concerns that it would be another tool for racial profiling.

The key to getting a compromise bill was adding a change to racial profiling law. A lot of how lawmakers plan to prevent racial profiling is through data gathering. Once the bill is introduced Monday, we’ll learn more about how lawmakers plan to use and protect that data.