It’s official. Massachusetts marks the final New England state to join the ban on hands-free driving by making hand-held cell phone use illegal while operating a motor vehicle. Effective February 23, 2020, it will be illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving in Massachusetts. As a personal injury lawyer in Seekonk, MA, Attorney David Tapalian is pleased the state has finally joined the coalition against distracted driving. Texting while driving was already illegal in the Bay State, having been banned in 2010. Yet, distracted driving car crashes in MA rose an alarming 170 percent from 2014-2016. Across the U.S., over 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2017 alone. There’s no question whether using a cell phone while driving is safe.
Massachusetts Hands-Free Law
As of February 23rd, under An Act requiring the hands-free use of mobile telephones while driving, use of electronic devices by motor vehicle operators and bicyclists, including cell phones and tablets, will be prohibited unless being used in hands-free mode. “Hands-free mode”, defined by Mass General Law, is the “operation of a mobile electronic device by which a user engages in a voice communication or receives audio without touching or holding the device; provided, however, that a mobile electronic device may require a single tap or swipe to activate, deactivate or initiate the hands-free mode feature”.
- All electronic device use is prohibited for drivers under the age of 18, even in hands-free mode. Seekonk Personal Injury Lawyer Tapalian has seen countless car accidents in Seekonk caused by teen drivers and it’s a fact that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15-18-year-olds. Due to a lack of experience, skills, and maturity, accidents among new teenage drivers occur at a higher rate than other age groups. For these reasons, he agrees with the complete restriction on all electronic device use in Massachusetts for novice drivers in an effort to prevent distracted driving crashes.
- Electronic devices are permitted in the case of an emergency. For example, a first responder may use a hand-held device.
- Drivers who are stationary and not in an active travel lane may utilize a hand-held device.
- GPS systems may be activated for navigation but must be installed or mounted in an appropriate location in the vehicle.
- Technology like Bluetooth is allowed for phone calls, provided it requires a single tap or swipe to activate and the device is not held in the driver’s hand.
Primary Enforcement of a Traffic Offense
As with the hands-free law in Rhode Island enacted in 2018, violation of the hands-free law in Massachusetts is considered a primary traffic offense. Primary enforcement of a distracted driving traffic law means that a police officer can pull you over if they see you violating a distracted driving law, such as texting or using a hand-held cell phone. The police officer does not need another traffic offense to take place in order to pull you over. As a personal injury attorney in MA and RI, we’ve seen drivers all over both states using cell phones to text or talk while operating a motor vehicle, despite hand-held cell phones and texting being banned in RI and texting previously banned in MA. By enforcing the distracted driving laws in both states, we hope drivers will pay more attention to the road, instead of their phones, to avoid the abundance of meaningless injuries and deaths that we hear of and see on a daily basis.
Fines for Violations of the Mass Hands-Free Law
Until April 1, 2020, police will issue warnings to offenders of the new law. After this period, a violation of the law may result in a $100 fine for first time offenders. A second time offender may be issued a $250 fine and a third or subsequent offense may result in a $500 fine. Drivers committing a second or subsequent offense may be required to complete a distracted driving prevention program. Repeat violations may count as a surcharge on the driver’s insurance.
Contact Tapalian Law After Your Seekonk Car Accident
If you’ve been hurt in a distracted driving accident in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can get you maximum compensation for your injuries. Attorney David Tapalian has over 20 years of experience helping injured clients in MA and RI after they are hurt in a car crash, motorcycle accident, slip and fall, or other type of accident. At Tapalian Law, we will hold the at-fault driver responsible for their negligent actions that resulted in your damages and losses. Our personal injury experts will discuss the details of your case with you for free, with no obligation, and determine the best way to move forward with your personal injury claim. With a main office located in downtown Providence, RI, and nearby Seekonk, Mass, if you are injured and unable to get to us, we will come to you. Contact Tapalian Law today at 401-552-5000. Or complete our easy, online questionnaire and we will contact you to discuss your Rhode Island or Massachusetts auto accident injury case.