Chang-Diaz: Texting ban could fuel racial profiling

Rapidly advancing legislation to encourage safer driving will likely lead to more racial profiling, according to the chief proponent of a bill calling for collection of more data on traffic stops. Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz said her data collection bill is still alive but had been temporarily overshadowed by work this week on the state budget, casino legislation and safe driving legislation, which bans texting while driving and prohibits junior operators from using any mobile device while driving.

“We’re still working on it,” Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz told the News Service, referring to her bill. “There’s just a lot of irons in the fire this week.”

The safe driving bill, which could reach Gov. Deval Patrick’s desk today, bans texting while driving and calls for primary enforcement of that ban, which means police can pull over drivers if they suspect them of texting and not just for another suspected offense.
Chang-Diaz voted for the bill, but told the News Service, “I do recognize it is going to exacerbate the incidence of racial profiling on our roads.”

Her bill, pending before the Senate Ways and Means Committee, requires law enforcement agencies to collect data for each traffic stop, including stops when no citation is issued, and mandates annual analysis of traffic stop data by an academic institution "with relevant expertise."

Chang-Diaz in March offered her proposal as an amendment to the safe driving bill but withdrew it, citing commitments from senators to address it separately. Asked if she felt those commitments were being upheld, Chang-Diaz said, “The session’s not over. My expectation is that we’ll still be able to have a vote on this.”