Hands-Free for Driving Bill Clears Massachusetts House

Under the bill, texting while driving will cost motorists $500

The Massachusetts House voted 153-1 Tuesday to approve legislation that bans people from using handheld electronic devices while driving, with lawmakers predicting lives will be saved and remembering people killed by distracted operators.

The bill, which mirrors laws already in place in many other states, took years to come together.

Rep. Joseph Wagner recalled "so many sidebars over so many years" on the bill, and noted he first filed a bill addressing the topic in 2003.

"This bill will save lives. Not everything we do can have that said about it," Wagner said.

"We took on a lot," Rep. William Straus said, noting the bill that emerged from conference committee talks that began in June and deals with both the hands-free use of devices and racial profiling of drivers by law enforcement. "When you do that, you do risk that it will take more time."

The bill, if signed into law, will improve safety on the roads of Massachusetts and "improve an issue of how we treat each other with regard to racial profiling," Straus said.

Straus said there were times when it appeared there would be no resolution between the bill's negotiators, and credited the final result to Speaker Robert DeLeo's determination to deliver a bill. Rep. Chynah Tyler of Boston was the only vote against the compromise bill.

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