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Rhode Island is the latest state to ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving. From June 1st onwards, if you're caught driving with a cell phone in hand, you face up to a $100 fine. The good news is that Rhode Island is serious about safety and really isn't out to increase revenue. For first time offenders, if you're ticketed and you purchase a handsfree device before your court date, bring the receipt and the ticket fee will be waived. 

 

Laws are changing all of the time, so we thought we would save you some work and review the laws in the areas you most frequently drive through. We also thought this would be an ideal time to review some of the most convincing research on why these laws are needed.

 

Massachusetts: There is a local option for banning handheld devices. The MA Senate recently passed a bill that would ban handheld cell phones for all drivers (see here). The bill must now be passed by the MA House of Representatives. All drivers are banned from texting while driving. In addition to these laws, MA also bans the use of cell phones entirely for drivers under 18, passenger bus drivers, and school bus drivers.

New Hampshire: Bans all handheld devices for all drivers. All drivers are banned from texting while driving. In addition to these laws, NH also bans the use of cell phones entirely for drivers under 18.

Vermont: Bans all handheld devices for all drivers. All drivers are banned from texting while driving.

Rhode Island: Bans all handheld devices for all drivers starting June 1st. All drivers are banned from texting while driving. In addition to these laws, RI also bans the use of cell phones entirely for drivers under 18 and school bus drivers.

Connecticut: Bans all handheld devices for all drivers. All drivers are banned from texting while driving. In addition to these laws, CT also bans the use of cell phones entirely for those with a learner's permit, drivers under 18, and school bus drivers.

Maine: Does not have a handheld ban in place but does consider distracted driving an infraction. All drivers are banned from texting while driving. In addition to these laws, Maine also bans the use of cell phones entirely for those with a learner's permit and those with an intermediate license.

New York: Bans all handheld devices for all drivers.  All drivers are banned from texting while driving. 

New Jersey: Bans all handheld devices for all drivers. All drivers are banned from texting while driving. In addition to these laws, NJ also bans the use of cell phones entirely for those with a learner's permit, those with an intermediate license, and school bus drivers.

Quebec: Bans all handheld devices for all drivers. All drivers are banned from texting when driving. 

 

  State    Bans handheld devices   Bans texting   Fine for First Offense

 CT

 Yes  Yes  $150

 MA

No, local option  Yes  N/A

 ME

 No  Yes  $50

 NH

 Yes  Yes  $100

 NJ

 Yes  Yes  $200-400

 NY

 Yes  Yes  $50-200

 RI

 Yes starting June 1st  Yes  Up to $100

 VT

 Yes  Yes  Up to $200

 

Distracted driving is a serious issue. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that distracted driving lead to 3,450 deaths across the US in 2016.  Talking on the phone, whether using a hands-free device or not, negatively impacts driving performance. The cognitive load on the brain is what matters rather than holding a phone in your hand, and the reaction time of drivers having a phone conversation is 40% longer than those focusing solely on the road (see here). It makes sense then that banning texting while driving significantly lowered fatalities by 3% (see here). 

 

Just Drive logo from Just Drive New England PartnershipTaking five seconds to write and send a text while traveling at 55mph means you just traveled the length of a football field without watching the road. How scary is that? Apparently, it's not scary enough. A recent survey by AAA found that most of us know that cell phone use while driving is a danger, but we do it anyways. Surveying 2,600 drivers, 58% of respondents believe talking on the phone is a serious threat but almost half have done it anyways. 78% of respondents know texting poses a real danger but over one third of respondents admitted to sending a text or an email while driving. Read more about these results here.

 

Let's all take a minute to remind ourselves what is most important in our lives: our families, our friends, and our health likely make the list. Put your phone on silent when driving so you're not tempted to respond to texts. Think of all of the other families on the road and the lives you're risking, including your own, when you take your eyes off of the road.

Posted 9:51 AM

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