Senate passes bill banning use of handheld phones while driving

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Senate passed legislation Thursday aiming to stop drivers from using cell phones while out on the road.

The bill seeks to impose a fine of up to $100 for those caught using a non-hands-free communication device while driving, barring an emergency. It would go into effect in June of 2017.

“Unfortunately, it is no longer enough to fine people for texting while driving because talking on the phone while having one hand off of the wheel is equally distracting,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Susan Sosnowski (D-South Kingstown, New Shoreham) in a statement.

Sen. Sosnowski referenced a 2011 U.S. Department statistic that 10% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reportedly distracted at the time.

Distracted Driving Dangers: Startling Facts & Statistics >>
Distracted Driving Dangers: Startling Facts & Statistics »

“Admittedly, many of us have grown accustomed to using mobile devices in almost every aspect of our lives, including in our cars and trucks,” she went on to say. “This is especially true for our younger population, who 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.”

Under the bill, first-time offenders can have the fine suspended by showing proof of purchasing a hands-free device for their car.

If the bill becomes law, Rhode Island would become the third New England state to impose such a ban. Connecticut passed a similar law back in 2005, while Vermont instituted a ban last October.

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