Lawmakers Debate Proposed Cellphone Ban

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Jan. 11, 2012

texting while driving

Massachusetts already has a ban on texting while driving. Should it ban all cellphone use altogether? (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)


BOSTON — State lawmakers held a public hearing Jan. 10 on a bill to ban talking on handheld cellphones while driving. Currently, Massachusetts only outlaws cellphone use for drivers under the age of 18. 
 
Foxboro resident Jerry Cibley said that using a cellphone behind the wheel killed his only son Jordan.
 
“We believe that he dropped his cellphone, unbuckled his seatbelt to retrieve it and smashed into a tree at 30 miles an hour," he testified at the hearing. "Jordan was only 18. He was the love of my life.”
 
Cibley implored lawmakers to outlaw drivers from using handheld cellphones behind the wheel. Nine other states, including New York and Connecticut, have similar bans.
 
Previous attempts have failed, said Rep. Denise Provost of Somerville, a member of the Joint Transportation Committee.
 
"I think we should ban, certainly, handheld cell phones altogether," she said. "As we know from past experience, this has proved politically impossible because the [state] Senate would not agree on that position."
 
But some advocates, including Cibley, see a reason to be more hopeful this year. For one thing, he said, the National Transportation Safety Board took an unprecedented step last month recommending that all states enact total bans on driver cellphone use. And, he said in an interview, “There’s just been so much publicity, and for the first time, I have a feeling that they're actually taking this very, very seriously."
 
The bill would still allow drivers to have hands-free cell phone conversations. Massachusetts banned texting while driving a little more than a year ago.



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