What? Did he really just say that?

The Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives says banning cellphones and other hand-held devises while driving may be racist;

“People were concerned about who’s getting stopped, especially for some folks in the minority community for … cellphone use.”

Speaker Robert DeLeo told reporters this week he wants to meet with the House chair of the Legislature's transportation committee before deciding whether to support the proposed ban. The Senate backs the idea and Governor Charlie Baker, once an opponent is now full square behind the measure.

Besides his fear that minorities might be unfairly targeted for violations, DeLeo told the press he's consistently heard concerns about people being able to afford the technology that makes hand-free possible.

The Senate has passed a bill that imposes a $100 fine on those caught using a phone while driving. Repeat offenders would face a $500 fine. The Boston Herald says Baker would like to see a bill on his desk by summer.

The Herald says bans are already in place in the five other New England states and New York. One would hope that DeLeo's response is just an over abundance of caution, although a similar bill died in the House last year after passing the Senate.

Too many crashes occur because drivers are pre-occupied by cellphones and other electronic devices. Speaker DeLeo's first concern needs to be the victims of those crashes. Urge the Speaker to support legislation that brings Massachusetts in line with the rest of the region in banning the use of hand-held devises while driving.

Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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