BOSTON — On Thursday, Senator Eric P. Lesser voted to help pass a ban on distracted driving, citing an increase in fatal car accidents due to distracted drivers.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), implements penalties for operating a vehicle while holding a mobile electronic device.

“I was proud to support this bill because distracted driving is a growing problem that is costing people’s lives. One out of every five fatal car crashes in 2015 was due to a distracted driver, and it’s time that drivers understand that the text can wait, the phone call can wait,” said Sen. Lesser.

Connecticut, New Hampshire and New York all have similar bans on the books. After New Hampshire passed a similar law, it saw fatal car accidents due to distracted driving drop from 16 deaths in 2015 to just two in 2016.

Forty-six states currently ban texting while driving for all drivers and 14 states ban the use of handheld devices for all drivers.

In 2010, the legislature banned texting while driving but did not ban the use of handheld devices for talking or other purposes.  The 2010 law banned handheld use for 16 and 17 year olds.  The law has been difficult to enforce and hands-free technology has improved significantly since the passage of the 2010 law.

Under the new bill, an initial violation results in a $100 fine, a second-time offense in a $250 fine and subsequent offenses in a $500 fine. Third and subsequent offenses would also be considered moving violations for insurance purposes.

The bill now moves on to the House for consideration.

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