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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) “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.
(2) “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.
(3) “Motor Vehicle” means any vehicle that is self-propelled by a motor, including but not limited to, automobiles, trucks, vans, construction vehicles, etc.
(4) “Person” means any natural person, corporation, unincorporated association, firm, partnership, joint venture, joint stock association or other entity or business organization of any kind.
(5) “Stopped” means not in motion.
(6) “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 but not limited to, text messages, instant messages, electronic messages or e-mails, in order to communicate with any person or device.
(7) “Use” means to hold a wireless handset in one’s hands.
(8) “Wireless Handset” means a portable electronic or computing device, including cellular telephones and digital personal assistants (PDAs), capable of transmitting data in the form of a text message.
(b) No person shall use a wireless handset to compose, read or send text messages while operating 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 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); or
(3) A person using a wireless handset 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.
(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a person operating a motor vehicle from utilizing a hands-free wireless handset.
(e) Any person who violates any of the provisions of this section shall, upon conviction, be subject to a fine of eighty-five dollars ($85.00); for a second conviction shall be subject to a fine of one hundred dollars ($100.00); and for a third or subsequent conviction a person shall be subject to a fine of one hundred twenty-five dollars ($125). All violations arising out of this section shall be heard in the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal.