Rhode Island Police Chief’s Association (RIPCA) stresses the importance of the upcoming implementation of Hands-Free Law that will prohibit drivers from using hand-held communications devices
Providence, RI– Rhode Island Police Chief’s Association (RIPCA) President, Colonel James J. Mendonca, joined by Public Safety Commissioner Steven M. Paré, Colonel Hugh T. Clements, Jr., and Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, held a press conference today on the Route 95 overpass on Westminster Street to discuss the importance of the Hands-Free Law that is going into effect on June 1, 2018 and will prohibit drivers from using hand-held wireless communications devices.
“The Providence Police Department will be vigilant in the enforcement of this new law as it goes into effect next week,” said Colonel Clements. “I urge drivers to utilize hands-free devices in their vehicles to assist the efforts of law enforcement officials and to curb the growing epidemic of distracted driving that is occurring nationwide.”
Drivers will be allowed to use an in-car or another hands-free system of accessory, such as a Bluetooth. If a law enforcement official observes a driver holding a phone and talking or texting while driving, they could face fines up to $100.00. The offense may be waived for first-time offenders if they can provide proof of purchase of a hands-free device before the fine is due. According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving at any given time of day.
“Under this law, a driver is not allowed to hold a cell phone while the vehicle is in motion. That means no texting, emailing or checking social media platforms,” said Colonel Mendonca. “As law enforcement officials, we do not want to pull you over and issue you a ticket for holding your phone. I ask you to please comply with this new law and make arrangements now to go hands-free in your vehicles.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2015, distracted driving took the lives of nearly 3,500 people with almost 400,000 seriously injured.
Attorney General Kilmartin added, “While it took more than 15 years for the state to finally pass ‘hands-free,’ I believe it will keep our roadways safer and remove another significant distraction amongst drivers behind the wheel. When I took office as Attorney General, I made it a priority to spread awareness and emphasize the dangers and deadly consequences of distracted driving. I launched the “It Can Wait” campaign in Rhode Island in 2012, visiting high schools across the state to spread the important message. Since then, we have made 92 visits to high schools speaking to new, and soon-to-be, drivers. I often tell students that distracted driving is not age-related; the use of a hand-held device is one of the leading causes for motor vehicle crashes amongst all ages, which is why I ask them to pledge to never use their mobile device while driving, and to be ambassadors and share the message with friends, family, and loved ones. We all recognize it will take some time for drivers to get in the habit, but we hope more drivers will realize that no text message, Snap, tweet or Instagram is worth losing their own life, or worse, taking the life of another person.”
The hands-free law does not include any provisions for minors, who are already prohibited from using a cell phone while driving, even with a hands-free device. The law also does not supersede Rhode Island’s no-texting while driving law.