NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Senator Jo Comerford is proposing “Charlie’s Law,” to ban drivers from recording or broadcasting video of themselves while driving.
The new legislation, An Act Prohibiting Video Recording or Broadcasting While Driving, would help strengthen the Massachusetts hands-free driving law by prohibiting video recording or broadcasting while driving.
“The way he led with love, the way he brought community together, the way he cared deeply for people and I think inviting us all to think about being safer and caring for each other more is a way to honor Charlie,” Senator Comerford said.
According to a report by State Farm Auto Insurance the number of people recording videos while driving more than doubled in the last five years.
Senator Comerford is hoping that her colleagues will approve ‘Charlie’s Bill’ this session to prevent another tragic roadway death.
So far only 4 states have put similar laws in place. If the legislature approves this measure, the only exemption for video use behind the wheel would be for Dash Cam’s.
A woman from Williamsburg is being charged with motor vehicle homicide in connection with the death of Charlie Braun, a bicyclist who died after being hit by a car in Northampton. Haley Kelly-Sherette pleaded not guilty to charges of negligent motor vehicle homicide, failing to stop for a stop sign and FaceTiming while driving.
Charlie’s Law would add to the existing hands-free driving law banning anyone from recording or broadcasting a video of themselves while driving. According to a news release sent to 22News from Senator Jo Comerford’s office, the bill provides an exception for “dash cams” that are mounted and operate continuously to record video to monitor traffic or passengers, as is often done by commercial vehicles or rideshare drivers for Uber or Lyft.
Charlie’s partner Joan Ringrose Sellers said, “I see it like Charlie was swept away in a tsunami, the dangerous and destructive rising tide of distracted driving. We can all see it coming and we’re watching it sweep away the things and the ones we love. This one small act of closing this loophole in the distracted driving law along with a renewed and vigorous ad campaign should deter and diminish the use of cameras and social media content filmed in moving vehicles. This will afford others the right to return home, which Charlie will never do again.”
Charlie’s Law is is endorsed by several advocacy organizations:
“Massachusetts has a strong hands-free driving law, passed in 2019. Our current law prohibits drivers from holding any mobile electronic device in one’s hands, and bans reading or viewing text, images, or video displayed on a mobile electronic device. However, the law could be interpreted to permit someone to record a video if they are not actively handling the device while driving. Many vlog-tips sites advise people on how to mount a camera so as to be ‘hands free’ but still be able to actively engage with a mobile device,” notes Comerford. “Charlie’s Law will close that loophole, and will allow Charlie Braun’s tragic death to send a clear message to the public on the dangers of recording video while driving.”
“When we passed the hands-free law in 2019, we saw driver behavior change. Then COVID hit, and our driving habits, including phone use behind the wheel, have worsened in the past 20 months. This legislation amending the hands-free law will remind drivers that the car is no place for Zoom meetings, FaceTime, or vlogging. We must remember that when we drive, that’s the only thing we should be doing,” remarked Emily Stein, President, Safe Roads Alliance.
“AAA Northeast supports enhancing the hands-free law to discourage dangerous behavior behind the wheel. Even though recording a video while driving increases a driver’s risk of causing a crash, the behavior is being normalized on social media and traditional media. Strengthening the law will create teaching opportunities to inspire all Massachusetts motorists to make safe and focused driving their priority on the roadway,” added Mark Schieldrop, Public Affairs Specialist for AAA Northeast.
“I’m devastated by the death of Charlie Braun, and I am committed to working at the municipal level to make our streets safer for all roadway users. We need to be looking at safety from all angles, including roadway design, speed limits, and driver behavior to prevent future accidents. Northampton is working to enact the changes we can at the municipal level; we need to partner with the state for legislation in order to enact more impactful change,” said Karen Foster, Northampton’s Ward 2 City Councilor.
Galen Mook, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition, said “Sadly, we are seeing fatal crashes involving drivers broadcasting videos of themselves while behind the wheel, and this bill strengthens the intention of the original hands-free law to prohibit dangerous behavior and responds to changing and popular technology. The severity of this danger cannot be overstated, and when bicycling around the streets of Massachusetts we see it every day where drivers are not fully engaged. We believe the improved language for this bill sends a strong message to drivers to remind them of their responsibilities out on the roads, while still allowing for the right to record in situations related to the safety and security of individuals in the car. As advocates, we will be watchful for how this law is implemented, being mindful of the potential of selective enforcement, and our hope is that a stronger bill can be used to educate all drivers to operate responsibility, in the end mitigating the need for enforcement and preventing crashes.”
A public hearing on the bill will be conducted before it is assigned to a joint committee.