Chapter 034
2019 -- S 0785
Enacted 06/28/2019

A N   A C T

Introduced By: Senator V. Susan Sosnowski
Date Introduced: April 04, 2019

It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:
     SECTION 1. Section 31-22-30 of the General Laws in Chapter 31-22 entitled
"Miscellaneous Rules" is hereby amended to read as follows:
     31-22-30. Text messaging while operating a motor vehicle.
     (a) For purposes of this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings:
     (1) "Driving" means operating a motor vehicle on a public road, including operation
while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic light or stop sign, or otherwise, but does
not include operating a motor vehicle when the vehicle has pulled over to the side of, or off, an
active roadway and has stopped in a location where it can safely remain stationary.
     (2) "Hands free" means the manner in which a wireless handset is operated for the
purpose of composing, reading, or sending text messages by using an internal feature or function,
or through an attachment or addition, including, but not limited to, an earpiece, headset, remote
microphone, or short-range wireless connection, thereby allowing the user to operate said device
without the use of hands, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function thereof.
     (3) "Inoperability" means a motor vehicle that is incapable of being operated or being
operated in a safe and prudent manner due to mechanical failure, including, but not limited to,
engine overheating or tire failure.
     (4) "Motor vehicle" means any vehicle that is self-propelled by a motor, including, but
not limited to: automobiles, trucks, vans, construction vehicles, etc.
     (5) "Person" means any natural person, corporation, unincorporated association, firm,
partnership, joint venture, joint stock association, or other entity or business organization of any
     (6) "Personal wireless communication device" means a hand-held device through which
personal wireless services (commercial mobile services, unlicensed wireless services, and
common carrier wireless exchange access services) are transmitted, but does not include a global
navigation satellite receiver used for positioning, emergency notification, or navigation purposes.
     (7) "Stopped" means not in motion.
     (8) "Text message", also referred to as short messaging service (SMS), means the process
by which users send, read, or receive messages on a wireless handset, including text messages,
instant messages, electronic messages, or e-mails, in order to communicate with any person or
     (9) "Use" means to operate a wireless handset or a personal wireless communication
device in a manner not consistent with hands-free operation.
     (10) "Wireless handset" means a portable electronic or computing device, including
cellular telephones and digital personal digital assistants (PDAs) (PDAs), capable of transmitting
data in the form of a text message.
     (b) No person shall use a wireless handset or personal wireless communication device to
compose, read, or send text messages while driving a motor vehicle on any public street or public
highway within the state of Rhode Island.
     (c) Notwithstanding the provisions of subsection (b), this section shall not be construed to
prohibit the use of any wireless handset or personal wireless communication device by:
     (1) Any law enforcement, public safety or police officers, emergency services officials,
first aid, emergency medical technicians and personnel, and fire safety officials in the
performance of duties arising out of, and in the course of, their employment as such;
     (2) A person using a wireless handset to contact an individual listed in subsection (c)(1);
     (3) A person using a wireless handset or personal wireless communication device inside a
motor vehicle while such motor vehicle is parked, standing, or stopped and is removed from the
flow of traffic, in accordance with applicable laws, rules, or ordinances, or is stopped due to the
inoperability of such motor vehicle; or
     (4) A person activating, viewing, or deactivating a global positioning or navigation
device or a global positioning or navigation application.
     (d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a person, other than a pilot/escort
vehicle driver, driving a motor vehicle from utilizing a hands-free wireless handset.
     The nonemergency use by pilot/escort vehicle drivers of portable electronic devices is
prohibited except to communicate hazard-related information to the escorted vehicle.
     (e) Any person who violates any of the provisions of this section shall, upon conviction,
be subject to a fine of one hundred dollars ($100), or a license suspension for up to thirty (30)
days, or both; for a second conviction a person shall be subject to a fine of one hundred fifty
dollars ($150), or a license suspension for up to three (3) months, or both; and for a third or
subsequent conviction a person shall be subject to a fine of two hundred fifty dollars ($250), or a
license suspension for up to six (6) months, or both. All violations arising out of this section shall
be heard in the Rhode Island traffic tribunal.
     SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon passage.