The measure is on its way to the Massachusetts House, which has tried in vain for years to ban texting. The legislation banning texting -- and possibly the use of cell phones while driving without the use of a hands-free device -- is expected to pass in some form during the current legislative session.
"We have a whole generation of drivers who think it's OK to text while driving," said Sen. Steven Baddour, according to media reports. "It's not the same as talking on a cell phone. You can't text safely while driving." Baddour is Senate chairman of the State Legislature Joint Committee on Transportation.
Rep. Joseph Wagner, who is House chairman of the Joint Committee on Transportation, is pushing legislation that would also ban drivers from making calls without a hands-free device. "It's inconceivable to me that we need to be holding cell phones while driving," Wagner said.
Massachusetts lawmakers were galvanized into action on the issue after a driver of a Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority trolley was at the controls of a trolley that collided with another trolley in Boston two weeks ago. Transit authorities have said the driver was texting his girlfriend at the time of the crash.
The issue has been taken up on a state-by-state basis in recent months as mobile phone texting has been increasingly cited as a probable cause of several accidents involving cars and other vehicles. At least 12 states have banned texting while driving, while at least another 21 are considering legislation to ban it.
States that have banned texting include Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. The District of Columbia has also banned driving while texting.
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