Whelan Makes Passionate Address on Cellphone Ban Bill

State Representative Tim Whelan (R-Brewster) delivers a passionate address on the House floor Tuesday before a vote to pass a bill to ban hand-held cellphone use while driving. Screen grab from a House Chamber video.

BOSTON – A bill that would ban hand-held cellphone use while driving has been sent to Governor Charlie Baker’s desk for his signature.

The Massachusetts Senate voted 38-1 in favor of the bill Wednesday after it passed through the House of Representatives 153-1 on Tuesday.

If signed into law, the bill would impose a $100 fine for the first offense, $250 for a second offense, and then $500 for a subsequent offense. Hands-free cellphone use would still be allowed.

State Representative Tim Whelan (R-Brewster) was one of the six members of the conference committee assigned to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

Whelan delivered remarks on the House floor before the Tuesday vote.

“What we have before us today is an opportunity here, Mr. Speaker, to save a whole great number of lives,” Whelan said.

Whelan served 26 years in law enforcement and retired as a Sergeant in the Massachusetts State Police. He detailed how difficult it is for families to receive the news of loved ones who have died in a crash.

“As every police officer, every first responder and our friends in the medical field, who have to do this at the hospital, everybody knows that when you share that news you are crushing a family,” Whelan said.

“That family will never, ever be the same.”

Whelan said officers know that in delivering that news they are taking the hopes that parents have to watch their children grow, and achieve life goals and succeed.

“All that was taken, and too often in this Commonwealth it has been taken because of distracted driving,” he said.

Whelan said the bill is critical piece in making roads safer and preventing knocks on doors at 3 a.m.

“Will this help?” he asked. “Yes it will.”

Whelan said this legislation will save lives right away.

“As soon as a year from now there will be women, there will be men walking around because we as a Legislature took action and we supported this legislation and through this action we helped make the roads safer and we did something to save their lives, and their future and the future of their families,” Whelan said.

The bill would also require the Registry of Motor Vehicles to collect data from every traffic citation, including the age of the driver, race and gender. That information would be collected without identifying the driver.

The info will be used to help identify police agencies that may be engaging in racial or gender profiling.

Texting while driving has already been banned in Massachusetts.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this article.

About Brian Merchant

Brian Merchant grew up in Central Massachusetts and now lives in South Dennis on the Cape. He has been part of the news team in the CapeCod.com NewsCenter since the spring of 2014. He studied radio broadcasting at the University of Tennessee.

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