Hands-Free Must Be Enforced or It Is Meaningless [OPINION]
The Commonwealth's new hands-free law takes effect on Sunday but the law will only be effective if there is a vigorous effort to enforce it. Too many well-intended laws are enacted but are never truly enforced and are therefore nothing more than just words on a page.
More than 1,000 people per day are injured because somebody is distracted while driving. The distraction is usually a cell phone or some other electronic device. It's easy to tell because the operator is looking down at his or her lap or off to the side.
The new law pertains to all motor vehicles and bicycles. Operators cannot hold their phone while speaking into it or listening. The phone must be in a hands-free mode and mounted at eye level. The cops are pretty savvy and can tell you are violating the rules. The law already prohibits texting or using email while driving and bans drivers under age 18 from using hand-held devices.
Even though the law takes effect on Sunday, there will be a grace period through March 31 to give drivers a chance to become aware of the new rules. Between now and then, offenders will be given a warning but after that fines will be issued.
A first offense will get you a $100 fine. A second offense carries a $250 fine and offenders must complete a mandatory distracted driving education course. A third offense gets you a $500 fine, an insurance surcharge and mandatory completion of a distracted driving educational program.
As someone who has dodged and weaved to avoid distracted drivers one too many times or has found myself stuck at a green light behind someone with their eyes in their lap, I say bravo to the new law. But law enforcement has to be committed to making it work through vigorous enforcement.
It might help too if our police officers at road construction sites set a good example by putting their own cell phones away and monitor traffic rather than texting while on the job.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.