Peter F. Kilmartin ’98 is the Rhode Island House Representative for District 61, Pawtucket, and serves as the House Majority Whip, as well as a member of the House Committee on Corporations, House Committee on Labor, House Committee on Rules, and the Joint Committee on Highway Safety. In the past year, Kilmartin sponsored a bill to ban texting while driving in R.I. that was passed unanimously in November 2009. Kilmartin was a strong supporter of the bill because of a near tragic experience he had with a texting driver while on duty as a Pawtucket police officer in 1997: “I was directing traffic around a worksite – a big hole in the ground, with a backhoe and everything – when I saw a car coming straight towards me, so close that I had to shout to get the driver’s attention to stop.” (RI Lawyers Weekly, November 19, 2009).
In 2010, Kilmartin’s attention will shift to fighting for a hands-free cell phone bill that will ban drivers from using their handheld cell phones without a hands-free/ear device in Rhode Island. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, there are 19 states, (plus D.C. & Guam ) that ban text messaging for all drivers, while there are only 6 states, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington, (plus D.C. and the Virgin Is.) that prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. To date, there is no state that completely bans all types of cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for all drivers.
Kilmartin’s original hands-free bill in 2001 was vetoed because of a concern that hands-free cell phone devices were too expensive and not widely available. Kilmartin feels that the argument is fading because there are now affordable hands-free devices and more cell phone users.