After years of proposals and legislative wrangling, a Massachusetts law prohibiting operators of motor vehicles and bicycles from manually using electronic devices while driving is finally about to go into effect.
Commonly known as the “hands-free” law, the legislation is effective as of February 23, 2020. Police enforcement will be limited to warnings through March 31, but after that, violation of the law carries penalties ranging from $100 to $500 plus insurance surcharge and mandatory completion of a distracted-driver education program.
What the law says
Here’s a summary of its contents.
Drivers who are 18 and older:
- can use mobile phones and other electronic devices only in hands-free mode, and are permitted to touch devices only to activate hands-free mode;
- are not permitted to hold or support any electronic device;
- may not touch an electronic device other than to activate hands-free mode, and may enable the device only if it is installed or properly mounted to the windshield, dashboard or center console in a manner that does not impede the operation of the motor vehicle;
- are not allowed to touch a device for texting, emailing, or using apps, video or the internet;
- are permitted to activate GPS navigation only when the device is installed or properly mounted;
- are allowed handheld use of a device if the vehicle is both stationary and not located in a public travel lane, but not if the vehicle is stopped at a red light or stop sign;
- may use voice-to-text communication only when the device is properly mounted.
- may use a headset, but only with an earpiece occupying one ear.
Drivers younger than 18 are not allowed to use electronic devices under any circumstances, even in hands-free mode.
Penalties for violating the hands-free law include:
- First offense — $100 fine
- Second offense — $250 fine, plus mandatory completion of a distracted-driving education program
- Third offense and subsequent offenses — $500 fine, plus insurance surcharge and mandatory completion of distracted-driving education program.
Beyond the penalties dictated by the law, violators face additional insurance consequences, including loss of safe-driving credit and removal from a preferred rating tier. Those consequences could amount to hundreds of dollars.
For a funny take on the new law and its fines, check out this video from the City of Cambridge Police.
Emergency exception for 911
As stated in the document and at mass.gov/hands-free-law, “Operators may use a cell phone to call 911 to report an emergency. If possible, safely pull over and stop before calling 911.”
Why this matters
The bottom line: Obeying the hands-free law can save you lots of money. More important, it can save lives.
Safe travels, everyone!
About Paula Gomes and Sylvia Group
Paula Gomes has provided clients with informed, thoughtful information and advice as a personal insurance account manager for more than three decades, the last 19 years as a member of Sylvia Group. Diligent about continuing education to remain current on the latest developments in the industry, she has professional designations as a Certified Insurance Service Representative (CISR), Certified Professional Insurance Agent (CPIA) and Certified Professional in Personal Lines (CPPL).
Sylvia Group uses SPS – the Sylvia Protection System – to empower businesses and individuals with performance-based insurance, benefits and financial planning programs. SPS makes our clients active participants in managing risk and containing premiums, resulting in coverage that is both customized and cost-effective. In addition to making a difference for our clients, we make a difference for our community as a whole by actively supporting and serving many of southern New England’s most reputable and effective nonprofit organizations and institutions. Sylvia Group became an Alera Group company at the outset of 2020, enabling us to combine the local, personal service for which we’re known with the scope and resources of a national firm.