BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts drivers are still sending and reading text messages, despite a statewide ban on texting behind the wheel.

Between the Sept. 30 start of the ban and the end of May, 733 citations for sending texts — about 3 per day — have been issued by police.

State officials and safety groups say it’s too soon to know if the threat of tickets is stopping drivers from texting. The number of citations so far is encouraging to some, while disappointing to others.

“Unfortunately, it’s not surprising,” said Jeff Larson, president of Safe Drivers Alliance, a safe driving advocacy group
that supports laws aimed at curbing distracted driving. “It’s a difficult law to enforce and there needs to be strengthening of the law.”

While the state law bans texting, it still allows drivers to talk on their phones. Larson said this makes it tough for law enforcement to know when someone is illegally texting or legally dialing a phone number. A solution, he said, is another law requiring drivers to use hands-free devices when talking on their phones. He said that would decrease distractions and eliminate any excuse to hold a phone.

The new law bans drivers from reading or sending text messages and emails, and scanning the Internet. If caught, even at a stoplight, motorists face fines ranging from $100 for a first offense and up to $500 for repeat offenses. Massachusetts was the 30th state in the nation to introduce a texting ban.

Under the new law, another 344 drivers have been ticketed for improperly using their mobile phones — such as by taking both hands off the wheel to grab a phone or by driving erratically.

Police also ticketed 41 drivers under the age of 18 for using their phones. Teen drivers are not allowed use their phones for texting or talking. A ticket comes with a 60-day license suspension.

“I’m encouraged by the number of citations being issued, because that would indicate officers are being vigilant in their observations,” said Chief Wayne Sampson, director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association.

A recent study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that enforcement, not just the threat of enforcement, was a key to cutting back the number of texting drivers. Distracted driving violations fell dramatically in Hartford, Conn., and Syracuse, N.Y., after police stepped up visible enforcement of distracted driving laws.

Hartford saw a 57 percent drop in drivers talking on cell phones and a nearly 75 percent drop in texting. In Syracuse, distracted driving dropped by 33 percent.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,474 people were killed nationwide in crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving in 2009, the most recent year data is available. Of those fatal crashes, 995 (18 percent) involved a cell phone as a distraction.

Under the new texting law, Massachusetts police have handed out seven citations for injuries from negligent driving caused by mobile phone use. And texting may have a played a role when 17-year-old Aaron Deveau was using a cell phone Feb. 20 and his car crossed the center line and struck another vehicle in Haverhill.

The driver of the other car, Donald Bowley of Danville, N.H., died. Deveau pleaded not guilty in May to charges including negligent operation of a motor vehicle causing injury due to mobile phone use, and being a person under the age of 18 using a mobile phone while driving.

Police departments across Massachusetts say they’ve been able to successfully integrate enforcing the new law into their daily duties.

Sgt. John Delaney, a spokesman for the Springfield Police Department, said teen drivers are especially deterred by stiff
penalties from using their phones.

Those penalties, many say, must be paired with education. That education, and safe driving in general, is critical to preventing accidents, said John Paul, a spokesman for American Automobile Association Southern New England, a top proponent of the state’s texting ban.

“I think it’s up to all of us to continue to remind people our primary function behind the wheel is just to drive,” he said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (20)
  1. Italo says:

    Wow, this story about Massachusetts drivers not paying attention to abiding by such a new law leaves me completely dumbfounded. ;)

  2. jaygee says:

    Anyone who drives a vehicle in this state is well aware of what a distracted driver doesn’t do when operating a 3,000 pound vehicle and that is pay attention to what they are doing. Texting a meaningless message while driving is like having a typewriter in your lap……..idiotic. The safety advocates are 100% correct in asking for a ban on all cell-phones while driving a car. Of course, it will take many more innocent lives to be lost before this happens.

  3. justsayin' says:

    yeah the law hasn’t worked. I don’t think a complete ban will work either. Maybe stiffer penalites will work. Take the license for years and maybe that will work. 100 $ fine doesn’t deter anyone.

  4. Trainthetrainer says:

    First things first, I see more police officers using cell phones while driving SINCE the law started. Pretty sad. Next time I’ll take a picture of it…with my cell phone…while driving

    1. K says:

      Now, talking on your cell phone is not banned. No requirements to hands free either on that side of things.

      I do want to know how the police or lawmakers will argue this ban when I as late as today, observed a state trooper texting away on Rt 16 while driving.

  5. Ellen says:

    Don’t have enough cops to enforce the law to begin with.

  6. emom says:

    WOW,,, and the ones to enforce are as guilty of using the cell phones… GEE< First of all, an all out ban is not the answer,,,,, stiffer penalties can only work IF there is someone around to ENORCE IT, First of all, to start with start with new drivers, when They are in drivers ed…. enforce the destructave behavior with a cell phone being used ,,,,, show the darn movies of the aftermath.. Next strongly advice If a cell phone is to be used,,, to have a blue tooth,,,, use the buttons to turn on and off…. Have it so you can hear your text that may come in and by all means only respond when you are stop and safe…… But parents MUST teach and lead by good examples,, OH WAIT WHAT AM I THINKING most never… whats worse the dude shaving while eating his oatmeal, the lady putting on her makeup an plucking her eyebrows, the old lady drinking coffee, talking on the cell , smoking and driving all at the same time…… try imaging that … its truly scary to see,,, anyway try enforcing something that will never be.. YEAH to many fools and not enough enforces….. GOOD LUCK THOU

  7. Ducky Yushkatis says:

    Massachusetts drivers suck! The police do also. I got pulled over for leaning on my horn at a driver who did not held to me in a rotary. I have a bumper sticker on my card that says” Yield @ROTARIES”. The police saw that & liked it. Hence, I went on my way.Why don’t the police pull over people for REAL reasons??? This state is a complete JOKE! I can’t wait to move to the west coast!

  8. Ducky Yushkatis says:

    Sorry meant I have a bumper stick on my *CAR* NOT CARD.

  9. pobsomnang says:

    Massachusetts drivers can’t drive that the bottom line. I see so much Mass drivers can’t drive plus 8 out of 10 driver in state Massachusetts do illegal turn. They always blame the teens that drive and text but I see lot of adult driver text or on the phone while they driving and they slow down the traffic and cops not do anything about it. Cops in Massachusetts too busy with their smart phone not pay attention on there job. That what I see out there. So now who to blame. If you need police they not around they seem to hide away and busy text or they hang around at DD so sad.

  10. Edward says:

    I like the ban the whole cell phone proposal. There is no reason you can’t stop your vehicle to make your phone calls. There is technology that can disable cell phones in motion. Just make the cell phone companies enable the technology or fine them for not.

  11. Amesbury says:

    I say the whole ban on cell phones is not a good idea. I do agree with no texting and internet while driving, but talking on your cell while driving shouldnt be taken away. Since what about in emergency situations aka a loved one just got in a car accident, you just witnessed a car accident or someone is folllowing you and you cant seem to shake them, I say let them use their cell phones then, since even though they are a distraction they are a neccessity, I would rather see cops pulling people over for speeding, cutting other people off, or running red lights, then simply for talking on their cell phone, so no to the full ban, but still no texting.

    1. emom says:

      I agree with you on the not banning talking on your cell… OH I KNOW,,,,,, there are many out there that prefer that all cell phones be banned while in a car… And you hit a good reason to have them in the car… and emergency… I can tell you how many time we hear they had to look for a cell phone or yelled out m”SOMEONE CALL FOR HELP”…. I personally use my cell for emergencies and to call someone or if they call me… I have a loved one that is ill and a young child so if I am out I need to have my cell at all times… stopping on the side of the roads is not all that easy… So I took the smart approach and purchased a BLUETOOTH. It has come in handy and saves from fumbling around look for the cell and aslo HOLDING IT, No need to if you have it set to be on with your cell. Push a button to talk and then disconnect.. all on the bluetooth.,, I also have mine set to speak to me if I do get a text… I just do not answer the text until I can stop.. I have my phone set with ringtones for my most used numbers So I can tell who is calling me… this way I can choose to answer or not… Bluetooths are the best and saves on holding the cell with your shoulder or your chin,,, YOU CANT SEE ANYTHING if you do .. Blurtooth is far safer so you can talk ,,,, texting or looking on the internet on the cell is a hassle… OH and if you use your cell for navigation,, please SET IT TO SPEAK OUT LOUD,,,, nothing is worse than reading the stupid screen to navigate roads…. its as bad as texting….. Oh and please if you do prefer not to use your cell while driving ,,,,which is your prefrence,, Please keep it near you ,,, you never know when you may need it for an emergency… it could save a life even your own.

  12. Willow says:

    Why is this a surprise? People ignore the seat belt laws, the drunk driving laws and the speed limit and stop sign laws. You can throw stopping at a red light in there as well. So, in light of that, why would anyone think they should stop whatever activities they do while driving?

  13. billbranch says:

    The jokes: the lack of enforcement, the use of cell phones by state police. the arrogance of drivers using their hand-held devices, $100 dollar fine. While the right and middle lanes are clogged by buffoons texting or with phone in their ears, driving more slowly than they should, unaware of other cars and forcing others into the high speed lane, while cops are aiming their speed guns at us, what is the real danger? Why speed traps? The distracted driver is a danger to everyone. Why isn’t he targeted? Is revenue the issue?
    Get out on 128 in Lexington at 4:30 in the afternoon. While you’re crawling along, watch for texters. Why can’t State Police do that?
    And all cell phones must be banned behind the wheel. Research it: even the self-absorbed driver with the hands-free device is at least four times more likely to be involved in an accident. Cell phone user, you and you message are not that important, but my safety is.

  14. Iman says:

    I like the texting law but even more dangerous is a cop staring at his computer for long periods of time when his eyes should be on the road. Don’t they use their radios anymore?

  15. Jim says:

    It is called running license plates that is why there looking at the screen of the computer

    1. Iman says:

      Sorry Jim but this was an episode of cops and he was reading the call he was going on…in detail….lights,siren. No plate checking going on there. Just sayin…..

  16. Derek Brooks says:

    Is this really a story?

  17. Jon Doer says:

    I was driving in to work today in heavy traffic and this fat cow behind me was texting and driving. I had to honk my horn a couple of times to let her know I was braking or she would have plowed into me! Who do I call to report idiots like this?????

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