Remember when life was simple, and you could safely assume the swerving driver in the car next to yours had just tied one on at the local pub?
Now, thanks to the wonders of technological advancement, there’s all kinds of reasons for idiotic behavior. Perhaps that jerk who can’t stay in his own lane is distracted because he’s arguing with his girlfriend on the phone, or paying more attention to his GPS than the road, or fiddling with his minivan’s DVD player because the shrieking kids in the backseat need to see “Toy Story” one more time, RIGHT NOW.
Last night, the Springfield City Council moved to eliminate one particularly egregious bad habit: texting while driving. The council voted in support of a home-rule petition, sponsored by at-large Councilor Jimmy Ferrera, that would ban texting behind the wheel. Violators would face fines of $100 for a first offense, with an additional $100 for each subsequent offense, up to a maximum of $300. Seventy five percent of any fines collected would stay in the city coffers, while 25 percent would be sent to the state Highway Department.
According to the petition, “any law enforcement officer with jurisdiction in the City of Springfield” could enforce the law, but could only stop a car to issue a citation “if the officer observes the violation … or has reasonable grounds to believe that a violation … has been committed, is being committed or is about to be committed.”
Springfield isn’t the first municipality to take up a local texting ban; Boston, Brookline, Danvers, New Bedford and Medford have all approved similar measures in recent months.
Mayor Domenic Sarno has said he will sign the measure. As a home-rule petition, the measure also needs the approval of the state Legislature.
In fact, the state House and Senate have both already approved a statewide texting ban. But that measure has been stuck in a conference committee for months. Ferrera told the Advocate he hopes local measures such as Springfield’s will help push that effort forward.
“I’m hoping that this will act as a signal to Beacon Hill, stating that communities … do want it, and hopefully we can get a statewide ban so that other communities don’t just have to keep on filing home-rule petitions to get these laws enacted,” Ferrera said.
About half the states in the nation already have bans on texting while driving. Last week, Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas signed a law making his the latest state to join that list.