This blog was updated on 12/29/20
Reviewed by Jason Stone
Though Massachusetts was one of the last New England states to enforce any strict distracted driving measures, things changed for drivers in early 2020 with the enactment of an improved Massachusetts distracted driving law. This is as big of an issue as drunk driving, speeding or being tired behind the wheel.
This new law says that the only way drivers can legally use their phones while driving is through hands-free devices. For younger drivers, even hands-free device usage is prohibited. Let’s dive into what all our state’s drivers need to know about current distracted driving laws in Massachusetts.
Can You Text and Drive in Massachusetts?
No, you can’t text and drive in Massachusetts. Even before the passage of new measures in February 2020, the Massachusetts distracted driving law said that drivers can be ticketed for texting behind the wheel. Even in cars that have driverless technology, as that technology is not perfect and does not provide any safety when the driver is completely distracted.
Understanding Massachusetts Distracted Driving Laws
Massachusetts law prohibits all drivers from not just using cell phones and other mobile devices to text or email while behind the wheel; it also bans the use of cell phones by drivers entirely. This rule applies even if a person is stopped in traffic. It is a primary law, which means law enforcement can pull you over and cite you even if you haven’t committed another traffic violation.
Drivers under age 18 face stricter provisions. All drivers younger than 18-years-old are banned from cell phone use—both talking and texting, even with hands-free technology. This is also a primary law.
There are also some federal restrictions designed to reduce distracted driving crashes that apply to Massachusetts drivers. Commercial vehicle drivers, public transit drivers, and drivers transporting hazardous materials are prohibited from talking or texting on handheld devices while behind the wheel.
Penalties for Distracted Driving in Massachusetts
Massachusetts’ Safe Driving Law took effect in 2010 and it established a series of distracted driving violations that are penalized by fees, license suspensions, and mandatory education based on the offense and the age of the driver. Examples of violations under the 2010 Massachusetts cell phone law include but are not limited to:
- Unlawful Use of a Mobile Electronic Device by a Driver Under Age 18
- 1st offense: $100 fine; 60-day license suspension; education course
- 2nd offense: $250 fine; 180-day license suspension
- Subsequent offenses: $500 fine; 1-year license suspension
- Sending/Reading Text Messages by a Driver 18 or Older
- 1st offense: $100 fine
- 2nd offense: $250 fine
- Subsequent offenses: $500 fine
In the event that someone is injured or killed in a crash caused by distracted driving, the offending driver could have his or her license suspended and face criminal charges. For example, in a landmark 2012 case, a Massachusetts teen became the first person convicted of vehicular homicide as a result of texting and driving. He was sent to jail for one year and his license was suspended for 15 years.
Why the 2020 Massachusetts Distracted Driving Law Was Necessary
Even with the 2010 Safe Driving Law, safety advocates and lawmakers believed stricter cell phone laws were necessary to curb distracted driving in our state.
The Safe Driving Law had what many in state government called a “loophole” that made enforcement by police officers difficult. That’s because it didn’t ban phone use outright, making allowances for drivers using GPS, including navigational apps. When police pulled someone over for using a device, drivers could simply assert that they were looking at a map on their phones.
From 2014 to 2016, distraction-related crashes in Massachusetts increased by 170%. The increase of distracted driving crashes prompted lawmakers to consider tougher measures. After years of debate and stalled measures, lawmakers passed the tougher measures in November 2019, and it became law in February 2020.
Distracted Driving: Beyond Texting
The Massachusetts Safe Driving Law and the pending distracted driving legislation focus specifically on texting and the use of mobile electronic devices like smartphones. However, there are other forms of driver distraction that can be equally dangerous.
Common examples of distracted driving aside from texting include:
- Applying makeup
- Eating or drinking
- Adjusting a radio, temperature controls or navigation device
- Searching through a purse, wallet, etc.
- Dealing with children or pets
While distracted driving laws don’t explicitly address these behaviors, distracted driving includes any activity that diverts a driver’s attention away from operating his or her vehicle.
Why the Massachusetts Distracted Driving Law Matters
Distracted driving accidents claim the lives of approximately nine people every day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Texting behind the wheel is one of the most common and dangerous forms of distracted driving.
Crashes in which driver distraction is suspected often require investigation beyond interviews with the involved parties for police reports and insurance purposes. It may be necessary, for example, to review a driver’s cell phone records.
The Boston attorneys at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers are dedicated to helping injury victims recover the financial security they need to cope with medical expenses and other damages. If you were hurt in a crash that may have been caused by a distracted driver, call us today at 800-577-5188 or contact us online for your free consultation.
Our experienced personal injury lawyers are ready to hear your story and fight on your behalf, and we don’t get paid until you get paid: That’s the Stone Cold Guarantee®.
Aggressive Representation for Boston Crash Victims
Following a traffic accident, law enforcement and insurance adjusters assess the cause of the crash and make a determination of liability based on the evidence. Sometimes, offenders honestly explain their misconduct; other times, the facts behind what led to the crash must be unearthed through other means.
For example, some newer commercial motor vehicles and passenger vehicles come equipped with event data recorders (EDRs) that log certain pre- and post-crash data about that vehicle’s operation. Cell phone information can also be collected to paint a picture of what happened seconds before a crash, and new evidence standards have been established to ensure relevant details are gathered on-scene.
If you were hurt or a loved one was killed in a Boston traffic accident that may be related to distracted driving, you need a knowledgeable, aggressive legal team on your side. The attorneys at Jason Stone Injury Lawyers have an extensive record of success in crash-related injury cases, and we work hard to get injury victims and their families the money they need to restore their lives.