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Bill aimed at car accident deaths from cell phone use moves ahead

Karns & Kerrison

Advertising campaigns backed by auto manufacturers, advocacy groups and law enforcement are aimed at educating drivers on the dangers of cell phone use while driving. Numerous car accident deaths nationwide -- including in Rhode Island -- involved at least one driver who was using a cell phone seconds prior to the crash. Data indicates that, in 2011, of the drivers under the age of 20 who were involved in fatal accidents, 10 percent of them were somehow distracted.

As a result, many states, including Rhode Island, have either proposed or passed legislation to ban all non-hands-free use of cell phones while driving. Rhode Island's version of a ban on cell phone use is moving through the state legislature now. The House has already approved it, and its next stop is the Senate. If the bill passes in the Senate, and the governor signs it into law, it would take effect in June 2017.

Anyone caught using his or her cell phone while driving could be fined $100. If a driver acquires some sort of hands-free device, the fine may be avoided. Of course, two notable exceptions to the hands-free rule exist. Drivers may use their cell phones in an emergency, and anyone who works in public safety is also exempted.

Even if the law passes during this legislative session, it will not go into effect for nearly three years, and some drivers may not follow the law. Inevitably, the odds are that someone on a cell phone will cause a car accident. Anyone seriously injured or the family of someone killed in a crash may file a civil action against the party or parties deemed responsible

Source: turnto10.com, "House approves cell phone ban bill", , June 6, 2014

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