More people are now killed by distracted drivers than by drunk drivers, according to a representative from the Northampton Police Department, so the “hands-free” while driving law goes into effect in Massachusetts on Sunday, Feb. 23, which will hopefully keep the roads safer and keep insurance premiums lower.This new law can be a bit confusing, but the main thing to know: if you have any electronic device (phone) in your hand while driving – even while stopped at a light – you can get a ticket!
For first offense: $100 fine; Second offense: $250 fine plus mandatory completion of a distracted driving educational program; Third offense: $500 fine PLUS auto insurance surcharge and again, having to take the class.
Note: There is a grace period for fines. Police can start issuing warnings on Feb. 23, but fines cannot be issued until April 1.
We don’t want to see your auto insurance rates take a hit due to violating this new law, so here are the nuts and bolts:
- Breaking the hands-free law is a primary offense, meaning drivers can be stopped and fined for handling an electronic device without violating any other law;
- Drivers are permitted to use electronic devices in hands-free mode;
- Hands-free mode is having an electronic device installed or properly mounted to the windshield, dashboard, or center console in a manner that does not impede the operation of the motor vehicle;
- Drivers cannot touch the phone except to activate the hands-free mode;
- Drivers can use the device for GPS navigation as long as it’s properly mounted;
- Voice to text and communication to electronic devices is legal only when device is properly mounted (use of headphone in one ear is permitted);
- Drivers can hold a cell phone to call 911 to report an emergency;
- If a driver is stopped, police can ASK to see a phone, but it’s the driver’s choice whether to hand it over to an officer;
- Handheld use is allowed only if the vehicle is both stationary and not located in a public travel lane.
Of course, there are many other things drivers can do to become distracted while driving, which could ultimately affect a driver’s auto insurance, such as eating, putting on makeup, having ice or snow on their vehicle. And actually, there is already a law on the books called impeded operation of a motor vehicle, Massachusetts General Law Chapter 90, Section 13.
Bottom line: Anything beyond keeping their hands at “10 and 2” is technically against the law, according to the representative from the Northampton Police Department.
So please be safe and keep your hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road!
Webber & Grinnell