BOSTON — Massachusetts could soon be a step closer to banning hand-held cell phone use by motorists.
The state Senate is expected to take up legislation on Thursday that aims to crack down on distracted drivers who are blamed for thousands of serious crashes in the U.S. each year. The House passed a similar bill last month.

Under the legislation, motorists would only be allowed to use their cell phones with hands-free technology. Those rules already are in effect in the neighboring states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Fines would begin at $100 and could increase to $500 for multiple offenses.

The House and Senate bills also include provisions to ramp up collection of data on traffic stops, amid concerns a cell phone ban could lead to more racial profiling.

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