As reported by WPRI.com, the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed a bill in June 2017 to make it illegal for Rhode Island motorists to hold a cell phone to their ear while driving. The vote was 57-7. The Senate had passed a similar bill a few months earlier. Under Rhode Island law, the two bills will need to be reconciled so each chamber can pass the same bill. Gov. Gina Raimondo has indicated that she supports such a bill, but will need to review the exact language before signing it. Rhode Island already bans texting while driving.
Under the House proposal, any driver caught using a handheld device while driving faces a $100 fine unless he or she was using the device for an emergency call. The fine could be waived if and when the driver submits proof that he or she bought a hands-free device such as an ear piece or a Bluetooth.
Distracted driving statistics
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that distracted driving is a national problem that includes many things in addition to cell phone usage. In fact, distracted driving is anything that takes the attention of drivers away from their primary duty to drive safely. This includes talking to passengers, eating or drinking, applying makeup or “playing” with the radio or the navigation system.
In 2015, the last year with available statistics, 3,477 people died on American roads as the result of distracted driving. Approximately 391,000 additional people were injured. Over 660,000 drivers were confirmed to be using cell phones while driving during daylight hours. Teens accounted for the largest group of distracted drivers involved in fatal vehicle crashes.
The NHTSA reminds parents and educators to teach by example as well as by words, never allowing themselves to become distracted while driving. In addition, April has been designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.