Massachusetts is getting very close to joining 19 other states in a national movement to ban junior operators (16 and 17 year olds) from texting and cell phone use while driving. All other operators of motor vehicles would also be banned from texting and required to use a hands-free or voice activated device when using a cell phone while driving.
According to the bill, drivers could only text “if the vehicle is stationary and not located in a part of the roadway intended for travel.”
A first offense by a Junior operator would result in a 180 day suspension of their license or learner’s permit and a $100 fine; a second offense would result in a one y ear suspension and a $250 fine; and a third offence would be punishable by a one year suspension and a $500 fine.
State Representative Charles Murphy said it is difficult to say when a final bill will be reached. “It won’t be finalized until the Senate acts on it and it’s in the works. We understand the importance of it,” said Murphy.
Burlington resident and parent Barbara Hospod said she is in full favor of it becoming a law.
“These ‘phone calls’ need to be kept within the confines of safe and acceptable places to use cell phones. Driving while texting or talking is not one of them and should not be tolerated,” said Hospod.
Her daughter, Kyla, is a senior at Burlington High School who admits she texts and talks on her cell phone while driving.”
“I know it’s a bad habit and it’s something I wish I could stop,” she said.
Her friend, Alyssa McNeill, also a BHS senior, recalled her mother took her cell phone away from her for two weeks because another parent caught her texting while driving; but now that she has it back, she confessed she is still guilty.
If it became a law, both Hospod and McNeill said they would have a reason to stop.
”I have nothing to tell me I can’t do it,” said McNeill.
BHS Associate Principal Mark Sullivan believes out of the 300 or 400 students who drive, 70 to 90 percent of them text and/or talk while driving.
“I get as many text messages in a month as these kids get in an hour,” said Sullivan.
BHS Senior Peter Milinazzo said he manages to keep both hands on the wheel while texting. His eyes are down but on the road at the same time. “I have never been to a point where my eyes are off the road for more than three seconds,” said Milinazzo.
He agrees it should become a law. “Texting should be banned. It can be just as bad as drunk driving,” he said.
Grant Gough, another BHS senior does not agree with the ban on cell phone use because he talks more than he texts and he uses his speaker phone. He believes hands free devices such as the blue tooth cause brain tumors.
Burlington Police Traffic Safety Officer Bernie Schipellitti is also the owner of a local driving school and teaches about the dangers of cell phones in cars to students every day.
“Statistics are showing that the act of being on the phone is the problem, as the same part of the brain is being used to talk and drive. That’s why motorists using hands free devices still crash a lot, too,” said Schipelliti.
Jim Tigges, Burlington police officer, said he was actually hit (off duty) by a 16-year-old female driver who ran a stop sign and hit his minivan.
“It was alleged that she may have been either on the phone or texting while driving but that wasn’t confirmed,” said Tigges.
He was out of work for five months and needed him surgery.
“My back and hip will never be the same,” he said.