Mass. House Considers Cellphone Driving, Racial Profiling Bill

BOSTON (AP/CBS) — Legislation being debated by the Massachusetts House of Representatives would bar motorists from using hand-held cellphones while behind the wheel.

The proposal would also ramp up the collection of data on traffic stops around the state to guard against racial profiling by police.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo described the bill that is expected to come up for a vote Wednesday as an important public safety measure that would help reduce deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving.

DeLeo is confident the bill will pass. “I think there was a very, very strong feeling of the members of the House that this is something that we should be doing,” DeLeo said.

Motorists could still use their cellphones with hands-free technology, but could face fines of up to $500 if pulled over for holding a cellphone.

Concerns have been raised that a cellphone law might lead to more racial profiling by police in traffic stops.

“The ACLU is appreciative that House leadership included racial profiling data collection in the hands-free driving bill, but we are concerned that it does not include data collection for all stops,” said Rahsaan Hall of the ACLU.

For Jerry Cibley, the issue is deeply personal. He lost his son to distracted driving. “It seems that he had dropped his phone, it was a flip phone, clamshell style,” Cibley said. “He had taken his seatbelt off to retrieve it, and he slammed into a tree at 30 miles an hour.”

After 12 years, he says it’s time to make a change. “This is a bill that is so important to pass,” Cibley said. “We are saving lives with this.”

The Senate is expected to debate a similar bill next month.

(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)