Earlier this month, 45 year-old Ryan Linehan of Ipswich, MA, lost her license for 15 years after pleading guilty to negligent motor vehicle homicide in the death of George Norris in March 2020 following a bicycle accident. According to reports, prosecutors believe Linehan was texting when she struck Norris, his wife and son, all riding bicycles on Topsfield Road. She then allegedly lied to investigators about having a sudden medical event. In addition to loss of her license, Linehan will serve a year and a half suspended jail sentence, six months of home confinement, and three years of probation.
Nearly two and a half years ago, on November 25, 2019, after several years of sitting in the state legislature, Governor Baker signed into law An Act Requiring the Hands-Free Use of Mobile Telephones While Driving, which took effect in February 2020. The law requires drivers (and cyclists) to keep their hands off their cellphones while driving, and not to call, text, access social media, read or send email, or use GPS while the vehicle is moving. By June of 2021, authorities had issued over 40,000 warning for distracted drivers in Massachusetts.
More recently, Massachusetts State Senator Jo Comerford D-Northampton, introduced another bill intended to tighten up the hands-free law by outlawing FaceTime, Zoom, vlogging, recording, going “live” or broadcasting online or on social media while driving. This bill comes after the death of Charlie Braun in October 2021 by a distracted driver who was allegedly using video while behind the wheel.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 48 states now ban texting while driving, and 24 states ban the use of handheld devices while driving, up four more from November 2019. Though the laws are getting stricter, as social media becomes more popular, and apps encourage people to record and post while on the move, the dangers of distracted drivers loom larger than ever before.
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