Monday, December 2, 2019 By Jasmin Sharp

On Monday, November 25, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker signed a bill the state legislature passed last week, banning drivers from using hand-held cell phones behind the wheel. The bill makes Massachusetts the 16th state to enact a law that bans hand-held cell phone use while driving

These laws have been lauded by lawmakers and safe driving advocates alike as a great step towards decreasing the problemA green road sign with white text that says "put your phone down" against a blue sky with clouds of distracted driving. When examining the patchwork of distracted driving laws in the United States, 48 states have texting and driving bans in place, but as technology has advanced, distractions on a smartphone have extended beyond just sending a text. 

2019 report from AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign, which advocates for the elimination of smartphone distractions while driving, shows that while the biggest smartphone activity is still texting (81%), other major distractions include taking pictures (64%), sending emails (60%), and accessing social media (50%). With the blossoming of technology in the last decade, state legislatures are still working to keep up with which smartphone distractions are an enforceable offense. 

More and more states are moving to keep up with technology by passing hands-free laws, with ArizonaMaine, and Minnesota all passing similar laws in 2019. The assumption is that stricter regulation of cellphone use while driving will decrease usage among drivers, which will then decrease distracted driving crash rates.

Unidentified driver with one hand on the wheel and the other hand holding a phone with lots of distracting apps on itHowever, the National Safety Council reports that for the third straight year, the United States has seen at least 40,000 total roadway deaths, with 7% of those deaths attributed to distraction (related: Distracted Driving is Underreported in Crash Reports, via NSC). In 2018, distracted driving increased year-over-year in every state except Vermont. Despite several states passing hands free laws in the last couple years and law enforcement cracking down on distracted driving, more drivers are on their phones now than ever.

Additionally, case studies into the effectiveness of hands-free driving laws show they are producing minimal results in actually decreasing cell phone usage while driving. California implemented a hands-free law at the beginning of 2017 and a report found that distracted driving due to cell phone use increased from 3.58% in 2017 to 4.52% in 2018. Washington saw similar statistics, with cell phone use climbing from 3.96% to 5.44% year over year after their hands free law passed in 2017.

Given that handsfree laws don’t seem to have the effect legislators want them to have in decreasing distractions, it is imperative for fleets to ensure they have company policies for cell phones and are using technological solutions to enforce company policy. 

Need a technology solution for your fleet to effectively eliminate distractions? Contact Nocell Technologies for a demo: