PITTSFIELD, Mass. (NEWS10/WWLP) – It’s illegal to text and drive, but could it soon be illegal to have your phone near you while driving?
The proposed law is called Driving Under the Influence of Electronics. It already exists in the State of Washington, and now Massachusetts is considering it as well.
The State Senate passed a similar bill last month that would ban drivers from holding any electronic device. If it becomes law, a driver could be cited for having their phone anywhere near their head or lap.
“In the United States, you’re free to do whatever you want within reason as long as it isn’t hurting other people,” Carl St. John said.
St. John is a gas attendant in Pittsfield. He sees it all the time when people roll up to his station.
“They pull up, they’re talking on their phone,” he said.
The new E-DUI law would prevent people from holding phones in their hands at all while behind the wheel. First time offenders face a $100 fine.
Drivers would also see their insurance increase after their first offense in Washington, but in Massachusetts, drivers wouldn’t face a surcharge until their third offense.
There are exceptions for emergency calls, and drivers would still be able to swipe or tap their phone with one finger to start voice activation services.
But if you get caught with it in your hand, you’ll pay the price.
“I don’t do it because I have kids,” Manny Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said it’s never worth it. He has a simple process when he needs to use the phone.
“I pull over and check my phone real quick, and if it’s nothing important, if my family isn’t trying to reach me, if it isn’t an emergency, then I keep driving,” he said.
But if the law passes, will it actually work? St. John said it all depends on who’s pressing send.
“I think it just comes down to some people abide by the law and some people break the law,” he said.
Similar legislation has been introduced in 14 other states.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving was blamed for more than 20 percent of the 291 deadly crashes in Massachusetts in 2015.