As the weather finally (?) turns toward spring, we are seeing more activity on our roadways and sidewalks. Nicer weather means more people getting out of their homes; more people getting back on those bicycles; and more people walking around shopping, dining, or just enjoying the fresh air. More people out and about means a greater risk for accidents and greater attention paid to your own driving, walking or riding behavior.
I am dismayed by the overwhelming number of people I see with their eyes on their phones while driving…laws be damned. You may be aware of the law restricting drivers from texting while driving, but RI also voted into law last July: “§ 31-22-31. Mobile telephone usage by motor vehicle operators.”
This rule states that it will be illegal to hold a phone while driving, period, end of story. The rule allows for the use of hands-free devices in order to communicate but at no time can you be holding the phone in your hands and/or up to your ear. The fine is $100, but you can have the first offense suspended IF you can provide proof of purchase of a hands-free device. This law goes into effect June 1, 2018, so you have plenty of time to buy your own hands-free device so you can practice your voice command calling!
It’s interesting to note that the RI General Assembly passed a hands-free requirement back in 2001, but Governor Almond vetoed the bill. At the time, the data on cell phone use by drivers showed that it fell below the distractions such as eating while driving or talking to other people in the car. Of course, we need to remember the capability of cell phones in 2001 vs 2018. Back then it was a big deal to be able to play “Snake”, now we have exceedingly powerful computers that fit in our pockets.
Now, of course, I want you to talk to your children about not using their phones while driving. Perhaps even suggest downloading an app or use the phone’s settings that automatically will respond to texts when it detects the car is in motion. But adults are no less guilty of using their phones while driving. And our children watch everything we do and often mimic that behavior. I see it all the time and it’s scary to see how long some of these adults are taking their eyes off the road to use their phones. NONE OF YOU ARE THE EXCEPTION TO THE RULE! If you receive an urgent call or text and do not have a hands-free device, safely pull your vehicle over and put it in “Park”, then use your phone.
We all need to work together to ensure that our roads are safe for everyone who is using them.