Little Progress to Battle Distracted Driving in Massachusetts

It is already illegal to drive and text in Massachusetts, but a tougher law to ban all hand held devices while driving keeps stalling on Beacon Hill. The hands-free law was proposed over a decade ago, and there has been little progress to make it a reality even though a similar law was enacted in New Hampshire.

Jerry Cibley’s mission is to get this law passed. He wants to spare others the tragedy he lives with every day. He lost his 18-year-old son Jordan in 2007 on Mother’s Day.

Jerry called Jordan on his cell phone while he was running errands with his car. In the middle of the conversation, the call cut out.

Jerry Cibley said he did not hear the car crash, “I heard something like an 'Oh' or an 'Ah' and the phone went dead and we couldn’t get him back.”

Police officers later came to the Jerry’s home and told him he had go to the hospital because Jordan had been in a terrible crash. Jerry rushed to the hospital and asked the doctor if his son was alive. She told him no, he didn't make it.

Jerry later learned that his son dropped his phone while driving. When he took off his seatbelt to find it, he crashed into a tree.

“If he had not been on that phone, a hand held phone, I believe my son would be alive today,” he said.

Jerry has been fighting for lawmakers to pass a hands-free bill ever since his son died. State Rep. Denise Provost of Somerville is working to pass the legislation, but it has stalled.

NBC Boston's Investigators asked her why the 10-year delay.

“It’s usually easy to find out who supports a bill," she said. "Finding out where the opposition comes from is trickier. They work quietly."

Massachusetts banned texting while driving in 2010. State police have written almost 13,000 tickets, but enforcement is difficult.

NBC Boston's Investigators rode with police in Franklin after school recently. The officers pulled over 14 people in just 15 minutes. Three of those texting and driving were teachers.

Jerry Cibley said he's not giving up his fight and has a message for lawmakers. “We have the ability - and I am talking to you state legislatures, state senators, state reps, the governor - we need your support to get this bill passed so we can save lives."

Lawmakers say this is typical Beacon Hill red tape and like many bills, the hands-free legislation is bogged down in the system, but could be passed in the next session.

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