The Boston City Council, which is exploring whether to ban texting or typing on a mobile phone while driving in the city, heard from proponents of a ban today at a public hearing.
Councillor John Tobin is crafting the measure, and expects his fellow councillors to sign off on it and send it to the mayor by Dec. 16. Today, Tobin and Councilor Stephen J. Murphy, both members of the council's Committee on Public Safety, listened to representatives from AAA of Southeastern New England, the Safe Roads Alliance, and the Boston Police Department, all of whom were in support such a ban.
Tobin said a person who texts while driving is 23 percent more likely to get into an accident than someone who is slightly intoxicated.
"I don't think we can wait any longer,'' he said during the hearing. He said that he used to text while driving but stopped doing so after watching a graphic public service announcement created in Britain on the dangers.
The language of the proposed measure would likely include a "primary enforcement" stipulation, allowing police to stop anyone who texts while driving without any other additional cause.
Tobin's goal is to apply local pressure on the state Legislature to pass one of the more than 15 bills pending on Beacon Hill that would regulate texting or using a cellphone without a hands-free device while driving. The measure before the City Council would require approval by the state Legislature as a home rule petition. The hope is that other communities also pass local bans and compel state lawmakers to act, Tobin said.
"They say you can't legislate common sense, but I this case I think we need to do something about it," he said.
In June, Menino announced a new policy that banned city employees from text-messaging while operating city-owned vehicles. Earlier that same month, the state Legislature's Transportation Committee heard testimony on 15 different bills that would regulate texting or using a cellphone without a hands-free device while driving.
In 2007, cellphone use was a contributing factor in 435 vehicle crashes in the state, according to crash reports submitted to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, said Ann C. Dufresne, senior communications adviser for Registrar Rachel Kaprielian. For 2008, the preliminary number of crashes involving mobile phones was 396, Dufresne said in a story published in the Globe in June. But both figures are probably low because of the varying circumstances of each crash, she said.
Also on the topic: Gadgets with speech-recognition or “voice-to-text’’ technology allow drivers can keep their eyes on the road and still communicate.
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