New England

Texting While Driving Would Cost You $500 Under New Mass. Bill

Massachusetts lawmakers filed legislation Monday that would seek to eliminate distracted driving after reaching a surprise agreement on the proposal last week.

The House and Senate agreed to restrict the use of handheld devices while driving in an effort to increase safety. Lawmakers had long wrangled over how to collect racial data and whether or not to share it with the public.

Under the bill, motorists would face fines up to $500 if pulled over for holding a cellphone. They are free to use devices with hands-free technology enabled, however.

State lawmakers are hopeful they will get the bill passed before the legislature breaks for Thanksgiving. Massachusetts would join the rest of New England as the last state in the region to implement such a law.

It's news that Norwood father Thomas Brannelly has been waiting six years for, following the death of his daughter, Katie, who was struck by a suspected distracted driver in 2012 and later died from the impact in 2013.

"I got the news Friday that they were very close and I had chills," Thomas Brannelly said. "It's too late for Katie, but it's not too late for others."

Katie Brannelly, 24 at the time of her death, fell into a "minimal awareness" coma following the collision.

Under the proposed legislation, first responders would be exempt, as would emergencies. Other than that, anything more than a top or swipe to activate hands-free mode would be against the law while driving -- and that includes programming your GPS.

"It's not the end all, it's not going to save everybody's life, but it's definitely going to save lives," Thomas Brannelly said.

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