ROCKLAND (CBS) — The state’s new distracted driving law, which prohibits all cell phone use behind the wheel, goes into effect on February 23. Massachusetts State Police said they will have extra patrols enforcing the law as it is rolled out.
Drivers will have to adjust to hand-free alternatives.
“Anyone touching a phone for any other reason other than to activate the hands-free mode with the push of a button or to call 911 in an emergency is in violation of the law,” said Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason.
While drivers cannot hold their cell phones, they can use a phone that is properly mounted to a windshield, dashboard, or center console to make or receive a call and activate GPS as long as it only requires one touch.
“While many new cars facilitate easy hands-free communication, not all vehicles are created equal when it comes to adapting. The average vehicle on the road today is 11.8 years old, so many motorists will be compelled to purchase and install new hands-free technologies ranging from Bluetooth to car mounts to comply with the new law,” said a statement from AAA.
Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, and voice-activated smartphone apps comply with the law.
Mason added, “We see the dangers and the consequences [of distracted driving] every day across our state. The texting law that was passed several years ago was a great start to combat distractions but there was well-documented challenges to enforcing it because drivers were still allowed to handle their phones to make and receive calls which in it of itself was a distraction from the task at hand.”
The law still applies to drivers stopped at red lights. For more information about the law, visit Mass.gov.
“Distracted driving kills an average of nine people and injures over 1,000 people a day across the United States, that’s a huge number. In Massachusetts, that number is 25 fatalities and 237 serious injuries that were caused by motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers each year between 2015 and 2018,” said MassDOT Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver. He also said distracted driving contributes to congestion.
State Police said there will be a grace period until March 21, where drivers will not be penalized for using their phones. After that, first-time offenders will be fined $100. A second offense will result in a $250 fine and a mandatory distracted driving educational program. Third offenses will receive a $500 fine, an insurance surcharge, and a mandatory distracted driving educational program.
Teen drivers cannot use their cell phones in any way.