Hands-Free Driving Makes Sense

Recent statistics indicate that the single-biggest cause of motor vehicle accidents these days can be attributed generally to what is known as “distracted driving.”

According to some reports, more Americans now are killed on our roads because of distracted driving than from driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

That is why we fully support the legislation recently filed by Gov. Charles Baker that would require all use of a cell phone or other device to be strictly hands-free. It simply is not possible for anyone to keep their eyes on the road while texting, dialing, or reading from an electronic device — and the epidemic of accidents on our roads is the best evidence of that.

We also support another aspect of Gov. Baker’s bill that calls for the non-use of a seat belt as a primary offense, thereby giving police the authority to stop a motorist and issue a civil citation solely for not wearing a seat belt. Under the present law, a person may be cited for a seat belt violation only if the operator has been pulled over for another offense (such as speeding). Massachusetts is fairly unique in this regard, but the governor’s bill will bring us into line with the majority of other states.

Another key aspect of the bill would require anyone convicted of a first offense for operating under the influence who applies for a hardship license to use an ignition interlock device for a minimum of six months, and be subject to penalties from the Registry of Motor Vehicles for attempting to drive after drinking or tampering with the device.

In our view, drinking and driving should not be allowed at all. But to the extent that we have a 0.08 threshold, imposing the requirement of an ignition interlock device for first offenders is hardly draconian — anyone who drinks to that extent and gets behind the wheel of a car clearly has a problem. Moreover, we are in favor of any additional measures that serve as an added deterrent to drinking and driving and thereby improve public safety.

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