Rhode Island Bans Hand-Held Cell Phones While Driving


Rhode Island scores another point in the fight against distracted driving. On Monday, Governor Gina Raimondo signed legislation that will outlaw the use of any hand-held “personal wireless communication device” used for talking while driving. Effective next summer, driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone will be considered illegal in Rhode Island. It will join the New England states of Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont, in creating the hand-held cell phone ban. As discussed in a recent Tapalian Law blog, Massachusetts is working towards joining the ban. Attorney David Tapalian is surely in agreement with other Providence car accident lawyers that this measure hopes to mark a decrease in the number of distracted driving auto accidents we see on a daily basis. Whether it be talking, texting, or using the GPS, there is no doubt using a cell phone while behind the wheel is a distraction.

New Law Is Effective June 1, 2018

The new law will fine violators up to $100. For “first time violators”, this can be suspended by showing proof of purchase of a hands-free device. Drivers will still be able to use cell phones while driving, but they must be used in a hands-free capacity. The exception to the rule is for emergency situations. Fourteen other states have a similar ban on hand-held devices while driving.

Texting While Driving Already Banned in Rhode Island

Texting while driving in Rhode Island is already illegal. In addition to Rhode Island, 45 other states have banned texting while driving, including Massachusetts. The RI General Assembly passed a similar bill to ban hand-held devices in 2001 but it was vetoed by then-Governor Lincoln Almond. At the time, he stated that cell phones were less of a distraction while driving than eating, tuning the radio, and talking to passengers in the car. Technology has changed a lot since then. Cell phone use is more prevalent now and has many more specialized functions than it did then, such as web searches, maps, texting, games, and apps. One of the sponsors of the bill, Senator V. Susan Sosnowski, said “With each change in technology, it becomes our duty as lawmakers and protectors of our constituency to ensure that we make the appropriate adjustments to our statutes…this is primarily about safety”.

Distracted Driving Extremely Dangerous

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving claimed almost 3,500 lives in 2015. These figures are alarming and unnecessary. This does not include the number of non-fatal injuries caused by the negligence of distracted driving. Though a fatality may not result, car accident injuries can be catastrophic, including major head injury or brain damage, loss of a limb, or loss of mobilization. Injuries from an auto accident may also require multiple surgeries, cause life-long chronic pain, and other physical and mental changes, such as PTSD. Victims may be unable to work, incur loss of wages, and be unable to support their family due to the devastation caused by their injuries. Innocent victims must be compensated for their losses and should contact an experienced car accident attorney immediately after their motor vehicle collision. David Tapalian at the Providence firm of Tapalian Law is skilled in helping those suffering from injuries from a RI or MA auto accident. It is important that you seek out a lawyer that focuses on car accident and personal injury law in order to maximize the potential outcome of your case. We offer a free no-obligation consultation with Attorney Tapalian at a time that is convenient for you at our main office in Providence, RI, or at our Seekonk, MA location. Do not wait to reach out to us. There is a statute of limitations for your injury case. The sooner you contact us, the better we can help you. Contact us today at


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