The State We’re In: Mass. Distracted Driving Law Goes into Effect | Connecting Point | Feb. 28, 2020
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The State We’re In: Mass. Distracted Driving Law Goes into Effect | Connecting Point | Feb. 28, 2020


>>>A DISTRACTED DRIVING LAW IS
NOW BEING ENFORCED IN MASSACHUSETTS.
THE BAY STATE IS THE LAST STATE IN NEW ENGLAND TO GET THIS DONE
BUT EFFORTS HAVE LONG BEEN UNDERWAY.
CONCERNS ABOUT POTENTIAL RACIAL PROFILING WAS AMONG THE CONCEPTS
DEBATED ALONG THE WAY. STATE REPRESENTATIVE JOE WAGNER
OF THE 8th HAMPDEN DISTRICT FIRST FILED A BILL ON
THIS IN 2003. I ASKED HIM HOW THE IDEA WAS
RECEIVED THEN.>>WELL, OBVIOUSLY, NOT AS WELL
AS IT HAS BEEN MORE RECENTLY, BUT I BEGAN — THE REASON FOR MY
FILING IT, MORE AND MORE PEOPLE WERE USING CELL PHONES OR BY
DEFINITION IN THE BILL ELECTRONIC MOBILE DEVICES TO
COMMUNICATE WHILE DRIVING. IT SEEMED INCONSISTENT AND
COUNTERINTUITIVE TO ME THAT IF THE GOAL OF SOMEONE OPERATING A
VEHICLE WAS TO DO IT SAFELY, I JUST THOUGHT THAT WAS A PRETTY
SIGNIFICANT DISTRACTION AND IT’S THE NUMBER ONE PUBLIC SAFETY
DANGER ON THE ROADWAY, IN MY OPINION, AND IF YOU TALK TO
CHIEFS OF POLICE AND LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS THEY WOULD
AGREE WITH THAT.>>IF YOU LOOK ACROSS NEW
ENGLAND, MASSACHUSETTS IS THE LAST STATE TO GET THIS DONE.
WHY WAS THERE SO MUCH TENSION, BACK AND FORTH, OR ON THE OTHER
END, TIME TAKEN TO GO INTO THE BILL?
>>THE HOUSE TWICE PASSED A HANDS-FREE MEASURE AS PART OF
TRANSPORTATION BILLS AND BOTH TIMES WITH SIGNIFICANT VOTES AND
THEN SUPPORT FOR IT SEEMED TO EBB IN THE HOUSE AND THEN THE
SENATE TOOK UP THE CAUSE AND THE SENATE IN THREE CONSECUTIVE
SESSIONS PASSW PASSED IT. DO YOU HAVE THE VOTES TO DO IT?
ONE OF THE SIGNIFICANT ISSUES THAT BECAME AN IMPEDIMENT EVEN
AS WE TRIED TO DO IT MOST RECENTLY WAS ROW HE COLLECT
DATA, HOW WE CATALOG DATA, WHO HAS ACCESS TO THAT DATA AND WE
SEE IT EVERY DAY, WE SEE IT IN OUR ELECTIONS, WE SEE IT PLAY
OUT IN THE NEWS. ISSUES RELATING TO CYBER
BREACHES AND PEOPLE’S IDENTITIES BEING USED AND TAKEN.
THOSE WERE SERIOUS CONCERNS, PARTICULARLY BY COMMUNITIES OF
COLOR.>>SPECIFICALLY CONCERNS ABOUT
RACIAL PROFILING.>>SURE.
>>AND WHEN YOU LOOK AT SPECIFICS OF IT IT, THE HOUSE
VERSION OF THE BILL WHEN THIS WAS BEING HASHED OUT WAS GOING
TO TRACK ONLY STOPS ENDING IN CITATIONS AND THAT RAW DATA
WOULDN’T BE AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC.
AND THEN THE SENATE BILL LOOKED AT RECORDING DEMOGRAPHIC DATA AT
EVERY STOP AND MAKING THAT PUBLICLY ACCESSIBLE.
HOW IS THAT FINALLY RESOLVED?>>YOU JUST HIT ON TWO MAJOR
POINTS, IF I COULD GO BACK TO ONE POINT FROM EACH OF THOSE
BILLS THAT YOU JUST HIT ON. IN THE HOUSE BILL, WE WERE
CONCERNED AND THE BILL WE PUT OUT SPOKE TO IT.
WE WERE CONCERNED THAT PEOPLE’S IDENTITIES WOULD NOT BE
PROTECTED. SO WE HAD TO RESOLVE DATA
COLLECTION WITH RESPECT TO PRIVACY AND TO WHAT POPULATION
IT WOULD APPLY TO AND SO WHAT WE DID ULTIMATELY, WE ENCRYPT THE
DATA, WE DO IT CATEGORICALLY, WE HAVE STOPS FROM 12:00 A.M. TO
6:00 A.M., FROM 6:01 A.M. TO NOON AND SO IN SIX-HOUR
INCREMENTS TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU COULDN’T VEER IN ON ANY
PARTICULAR DRIVER.>>BUT DO YOU THINK THAT IT GETS
AT THAT CONCERN THAT PEOPLE HAD ABOUT POTENTIAL RACIAL
PROFILING?>>I DO.
I THINK — I THINK WE’VE BUILT IN ALL KINDS OF SAFEGUARDS
AROUND, WHICH THERE WAS BROAD AGREEMENT ACROSS THE HOUSE AND
SENATE ON THAT — ON THAT ISSUE. WE COLLECT AGE AND — AND GENDER
AND THE REASON FOR THE STOP, BUO AS TO, YOU KNOW, PROTECT
PEOPLE’S IDENTITIES AND ADDRESS THE ISSUE THAT YOU JUST RAISED.
ON THE ALL-STOP, I THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO TALK ABOUT HOW WE
DID THAT, TOO. IF A DETERMINATION IS MADE THAT
A COMMUNITY MAY HAVE ENGAGED IN PROFILING AND WE’LL LEAVE IT TO
EXPERTS TO DETERMINE THAT, THE EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF PUBLIC
SAFETY SPECIFICALLY AND THE SECRETARY OF THAT OFFICE, IF
WE — IN THEIR VIEW A COMMUNITY HAS ENGAGED IN PROFILING, THEN
ALL STOPS WILL BE RECORDED, EVEN THOSE THAT DON’T RESULT IN THE
ISSUE OF A UNIFORM CITATION. SO WE HAVE BEEN AT DIFFERENT
PLACES, WE CLOSED THAT GAP BY SAYING IF IT APPEARS THERE MAY
BE PROFILING, WE’LL APPLY IT FOR A PERIOD OF ONE YEAR.
IT WILL BE AN EDUCATION COMPONENT FOR THE LAW
ENFORCEMENT IN THAT COMMUNITY AND THAT COULD APPLY TO STATE
AGENCIES AS WELL AS THE STATE POLICE, FOR EXAMPLE.
>>I WANT TO LOOK AT A FEW THE SPECIFICS AND TICK THEM OFF FOR
FOLKS AT HOME BECAUSE IT IS SO NEW.
SO DRIVERS CAN ACTIVATE THE HANDS-FREE PORTION WITH A SINGLE
TAP OR A SWIPE. YOU ARGUE YOU DO GET THAT ONE
TOUCH THERE. IT NEEDS TO BE MOUNTED IF YOU’RE
USING GPS FOR YOUR NAVIGATION INSTEAD OF LIKE AN ON-BOARD
SYSTEM IN YOUR VEHICLE. YOU CANNOT USE DEVICES WHEN
YOU’RE STOPPED, AT RED LIGHTS OR STUCK IN TRAFFIC, AND I THINK
THAT ONE NEEDS TO BE HIGHLIGHTED BECAUSE PEOPLE DO THAT ALL THE
TIME. I’VE BEEN GUILTY OF IT IN THE
PAST. YOU THINK I’M STOPPED, I’M SAFE,
IT’S OKAY HERE. STATE LAW NOW SAYS NO AND ANYONE
18 OR UNDER, YOU CANNOT BE USING YOUR PHONE IN ANY CAPACITY WHILE
DRIVING.>>CORRECT.
>>DO YOU THINK THAT THAT GOES FAR ENOUGH TO COVER CONCERNS
THAT FAMILIES, WHEEZE LOVED ONES HAVE BEEN KILLED IN DISTRACTED
DRIVING CRASHES, HAVE RAISED?>>WELL, I THINK IF YOU WERE TO
ASK SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHOSE LIVES HAVE BEEN CHANGED, YOU
KNOW IMMEASURABLY BY THE KINDS OF HORRIFIC TRAGEDIES THAT YOU
JUST ALLUDED TO, I THINK THEY WOULD AGREE THAT THIS MOVES THE
BALL SIGNIFICANTLY DOWN THE FIELD.
THE KEY IS GOING TO BE ENFORCEMENT.
AND ON THE DAY THAT WE DID THE BILL SIGNING, I SAID IT TOOK A
LONG TIME, BUT WE GOT TO A REALLY GOOD PLACE AND IT’S A
REALLY GOOD LAW AND A REALLY GOOD PIECE OF LEGISLATION, EVEN
FOR AS LONG AS THAT TOOK US TO GET THERE.
THEY SAID OUR JOB NOW IS TO PIVOT TO ENFORCEMENT.

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