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Friday, 29 November 2019 21:43

What You Need to Know About MA Hands-Free Legislation

Governor Baker Signs Legislation Requiring Hands-Free Use of Electronic Devices While Driving

If you are accustomed to having a conversation or checking navigation while using your handheld phone it's time to stop. Massachusetts hands-free driving law now prohibits drivers from holding a phone for any reason, other than in an emergency. (Texting while driving has been banned for nearly a decade. Calls in hands-free mode are allowed.)

The bill, entitled “An Act Requiring The Hands-Free Use Of Mobile Telephones While Driving,” aims to improve road safety in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and was signed by Governor Charlie Baker in November.

Section 13B(a) of the law states:

  • No operator of a motor vehicle shall hold a mobile electronic device. No operator of a motor vehicle shall use a mobile electronic device unless the device is being used in hands-free mode.
  • No operator of a motor vehicle shall read or view text, images or video displayed on a mobile electronic device; provided, however, that an operator may view a map generated by a navigation system or application on a mobile electronic device that is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s windshield, dashboard or center console in a manner that does not impede the operation of the motor vehicle.
  • An operator shall not be considered to be operating a motor vehicle if the vehicle is stationary and not located in a part of the public way intended for travel by a motor vehicle or bicycle.

 

There are exceptions to the hands-free driving law — the use of a hand-held device is permitted to report these emergencies:

  1. the vehicle was disabled;
  2. medical attention or assistance was required;
  3. police intervention, fire department or other emergency services were necessary for the personal safety of the operator or a passenger or to otherwise ensure the safety of the public; or
  4. a disabled vehicle or an accident was present on a roadway.

 

The punishment for violating the Massachusetts hands-free law:

A first or second offense will not be a surchargeable incident, but violators will be fined $100 for a first offense and $250 fine for a second offense. A third or subsequent offense will be a surchargeable incident resulting in a fine of $500 and those operators who commit a third or subsequent offense will be required to complete an educational program focused on distracted driving prevention.

The legislation requires that law enforcement officers report data on violations to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles who will maintain statistical information and will report that information annually to the Secretary of Public Safety and security. The Secretary of Public Safety’s office will release the data to the public annually, but it will not "contain information that may reveal the identity of any individual who is stopped or any law enforcement officer."

The secretary of public safety and security shall publish an annual public report, derived from the data used for the annual analysis and report prepared under subsection (d), containing aggregate numbers, listed by municipality and law enforcement agency,

 

When is the MA cell phone law changing?

The law takes effect on February 23, 2020. According to the bill, drivers are allowed a single tap or swipe to enable hands-free features, such as BlueTooth, but they are not permitted to touch or hold the mobile device while driving, even when they are not moving.

 

There is a hands-free driving law grace period.

There is a grace period of 90 days after passage of the law. First-time violators who are cited between February 23, 2020, and March 31, 2020, will receive warnings. The provisions of the law state that, "an operator of a motor vehicle shall be issued a warning for a first violation of section 13B of chapter 90 of the General Laws for conduct other than the typing or reading of an electronic message occurring after the effective date of this act until March 31, 2020, inclusive."1

 

Hands-free driving is part of a comprehensive road-safety package.

The hands-free legislation is included in the comprehensive road-safety package which includes work zone safety improvements, requires the use of ignition interlock devices for first-time offenders, and creates a framework to regulate new technology like electronic scooters and other low-speed mobility devices. For additional information, please visit https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-files-legislation-to-improve-road-safety.

 

Massachusetts Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack said, “The hands-free legislation is now law in Massachusetts thanks to the tireless work of advocates and victims’ families. Legislators were moved to action after hearing the personal stories of people who have lost loved ones in traffic crashes. Advocacy groups were with the families every step of the way and marshaled support for this bill. I would like to thank the Vision Zero Coalition, Safe Roads Alliance, LiveableStreets, WalkBoston and many other pedestrian and bicycle advocacy groups for their efforts and I look forward to continuing our collaboration to get additional road safety bills passed during the next legislative session.”

 

Massachusetts is the last state in New England and the 21st state in the country to pass a hands-free driving law.

 

 

How to go hands-free with your mobile device if you haven't already done so.

If your vehicle is Bluetooth enabled but you haven't connected your phone, check your vehicle owners manual for instructions. If your car does not have the Bluetooth feature, or you use your phone for navigation, purchase either a dashboard or vent mount to keep your map visible. Another option is a universal cup holder phone stand that adjusts to fit your vehicle's cup holder for hands-free use.

You have some time to find the right solution for you, your phone, and your vehicle. Whichever solution you choose to keep your hands free, it's a good idea to adapt to and follow the law now rather than waiting until the effective date of February 23rd, 2020 — just in case.

#DriveSafely #DriveHandsFree


Learn More:

Mass.gov 

Mass. General Laws c.90 § 13B

Mass. Legislature

Mass DOT

Agency Checklists

https://malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2019/Chapter122

Read 788 times Last modified on Thursday, 19 December 2019 17:11
More in this category: « Speeding Tickets in MA

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