The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and the
Rhode Island State Police joined with federal and state leaders today to
highlight the upcoming new hands-free law in Rhode Island. The law takes effect
on June 1 and prohibits a driver from using a hand-held wireless communication
device while driving.
At a press conference today at AAA Northeast's Providence
headquarters, officials discussed the many benefits of the new law. Distracted
driving caused by use of personal electronic devices is a growing problem,
leading to needless deaths and serious injuries.
The new hands-free law was sponsored by Senator V. Susan
Sosnowski and Representative Kathleen A. Fogarty. According to a National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration report in 2015, distracted driving
claimed nearly 3,500 lives with nearly 400,000 people seriously injured in
"Many of us have grown accustomed to using mobile devices
in almost every aspect of our lives, including in our cars and trucks. This is
especially true for our younger population, which grew up with this kind of
technology embedded in their daily lives," said Senator Sosnowski.
"It's important not to forget that every time we step into a vehicle, we
are taking our lives and the lives of others into our own hands. Distracted
driving is extremely dangerous."
"Our children are especially vulnerable to distracted
driving. According to a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Transportation,
10 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were
reported to be 'distracted' at the time of the crash," said Representative
Kathleen Fogarty. "Senator Sosnowski and I are proud to have sponsored
this legislation and are gratified to see it going into effect."
"Like so many other types of crashes we see, those
involving drivers distracted by their cell phones are preventable," RIDOT
Director Peter Alviti Jr. said. "We will continue to work with our
partners to educate the public about safe driving behaviors."
The new law allows drivers to use an in-car or other hands-free
system or accessory, such as Bluetooth. If a police officer observes someone
holding a phone while driving, her or she will be pulled over and may be fined
up to $100. The offense may be waived for first offenders only by showing proof
of purchase of a hands-free device before the fine is due.
The law does not include any provisions for minors, who already
are not allowed to use a cell phone while driving - not even with a hands-free
device. The law also does not supersede Rhode Island's no-texting law.
"With education and enforcement, there's no question this
new hands-free law will save lives," said Colonel Ann C. Assumpico,
Superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police and Director of the Department
of Public Safety. "We will do our part to ensure motorists understand and
abide by the new law, which will make our roads safer for everyone."
At the event today, a variety of hands-free devices were shown
and discussed. Many newer cars have features already built in, and Bluetooth
devices are widely available at retail stores and online. Those having
difficulty with pairing their phones should seek advice from the car or
electronics retailer where they purchased the devices.
"Ground-breaking research by AAA's Foundation for Traffic
Safety has highlighted the dangers of manual, visual and cognitive distraction
while operating a motor vehicle," says John Galvin, AAA Northeast
president and CEO. "We are proud to have supported the efforts of the
Governor and the General Assembly in passing a common-sense hands-free law that
will reduce crash risk and make all motorists safer on Rhode Island's
Additional information can be found online on RIDOT's website at