We have all become more and more dependent on our cell phones for not only communication or entertainment, but also as an important tool for making our lives easier. Trying to get to Fenway Park from Lowell? Our phones can give us step-by-step directions, giving us the fastest route, even with traffic. We can also use our phones to reserve a parking space for when we get there. Alternatively, we can buy a train ticket on our phone and take public transportation to get there.
For all the positive our phones provide, they can also distract us from what’s going on around us. When someone is looking at their phone at the dinner table, it can be very rude. But, its unlikely that someone can get hurt. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily true if someone is distracted by their cell phones when they’re behind the wheel.
According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use by drivers causes more than 1.6 million car crashes across the country each year. While many people associate these injuries with texting, there are many ways that people can get distracted by a cell phone. This includes everything from browsing Instagram to trying to make a phone call. However someone is using their phone, when it takes their attention from the road, it makes it more dangerous for everyone else.
Massachusetts has been at the forefront of trying to end distracted driving. While there is never a way to eliminate cell phone use altogether, Massachusetts has tried to reduce distracted driving as much as possible. To that end, over the past decade, Massachusetts has passed a pair of laws limiting the use of cell phones while driving.
First, Massachusetts passed legislation banning “texting” while driving in 2010. It banned people from sending, typing, or reading messages on any handheld device. This included texting and other types of messages as well, including emails, messaging apps, and text sent through a web page. The law also banned junior operators (drivers between the age of 16 1/2 and 18) from using handheld devices and cell phones altogether.
More recently, on February 23, 2020, Massachusetts passed a hands-free law that prohibits the use of any electronic device, including mobile telephones while driving a vehicle, unless the device is used in hands-free mode. This means that a driver can’t hold a cell phone in their hand while driving.
The law affects many different ways people use their phone.
- If you’re making a call, even on speakerphone, you can’t be holding the phone.
- The law still allows you to use your phone for navigation/directions, but the phone has to be mounted or attached to the dashboard.
- Drivers aren’t allowed to look at photos or use social media in any fashion. Even if your phone is mounted to a dashboard, you can’t browse on your phone while you’re at a stop light.
As with any law, there are penalties for violating it:
1st offense – $100 fine.
2nd offense – $250 fine, plus mandatory completion of a distracted driving educational program.
3rd and subsequent offenses – $500 fine, plus insurance surcharge and mandatory completion of distracted driving educational program.
Admittedly, the penalties are relatively small. Even so, the law is intended to save lives. The hope is that people will stop using their phones behind the wheel, and “accidents” that could have been prevented won’t happen.
If you were involved in a car accident where the other party involved was distracted by the use of a cell phone, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. It is important to know the law, not only to make sure you are in compliance with it, but also so you can identify instances where you have been the victim of someone who does not follow it.