The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association, on behalf of its member hospitals, health systems, physician organizations, and allied health care providers, appreciates this opportunity to offer comments in strong support of SB7
, and HB3179
– all of which seek to implement a hands-free driving law in Massachusetts.
Currently, 90% of time spent on handheld phones is in visual applications or “apps” Using these apps, reading text messages, dialing a number, or programming a GPS on a hand-held device takes a driver’s eyes off the road. Driver distraction is a public health epidemic. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, distracted driving in the United States results in nine road fatalities each day and injures nearly 400,000 people per year. Motor vehicle deaths in Massachusetts have increased 13% from 2015 to 2016 and experts universally agree that distracted driving is the primary cause. Additionally, auto insurance premiums have jumped 16% since 2011 and major insurers cite distracted driving as a key factor driving those increases.
These bills would ban the use of handheld electronic devices while driving. They authorize police officers to stop and issue citations to motorists using handheld devices and put in place a tiered fine structure for offenders. Additionally, MHA strongly supports provisions in these bills that allow for exemptions so that handheld devices may be used in emergency situations by public safety personnel and emergency first responders in the performance of their duties.
Prohibiting the use of handheld mobile devices while behind the wheel is proven to decrease distracted driving. Recent data from the state of Georgia found a 22% drop in distracted driving after they enacted a hands-free driving law. If passed, this law would put Massachusetts in line with 16 other states – including all directly neighboring states which currently have hands-free driving laws.
Thank you for the opportunity to offer testimony on these important matters. If you have any questions, or require further information, please contact Michael Sroczynski, MHA’s Senior Vice President of Government Advocacy, at (781) 262-6055 or firstname.lastname@example.org