In an effort to curb the number of cellphone-involved distracted driving crashes in our state, Massachusetts became the 21st state to ban hand-held cellphone use when behind the wheel. Signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker in November 2019, the law went into effect in February of 2020. For drivers in our state, here’s an overview of the law and your rights and responsibilities under it, as well as what you should do if you’re in a crash caused by a distracted driver.
The Rules Per the Massachusetts Ban on Hand-held Phones While Driving
While the use of hand-held devices is now banned in our state, drivers aren’t completely prohibited from using their phones or placing calls. Here’s what you should know about the law:
- You are not allowed to text while driving (this was already a law in Massachusetts).
- You are not allowed to talk on your cellphone when it is not in hands-free mode. This means that even if you have both hands on the wheel and are holding your phone between your ear and your shoulder, you’re violating the law.
- You are allowed to use your phone in hands-free mode with the use of a Bluetooth speaker or earpiece, or by keeping your device mounted and on speakerphone.
- While you may think that the new rule means that earbuds or headphones are OK, think again – drivers are prohibited from wearing headphones in Massachusetts under a separate law. That being said, you can use an earpiece or earbud that only occupies a single ear, not both.
- Finally, note that while you may be able to use your phone hands-free, if you’re planning on answering or placing a call, you’ll need to do that in hands-free mode as well. No dialing by hand is allowed. As such, you’ll need to set up your phone to be able to recognize a voice command.
Penalties for Violating the Hand-held Device Law
Using a hand-held device while driving is a primary offense in Massachusetts, which means that a driver can be stopped and ticketed for using a hand-held device without having to break another law firm. For a first offense, the fine is $150. The fine increases for subsequent offenses, going up to $250 for a second offense and $500 for a third offense. In addition to a monetary fine, a second offense will result in the offender’s required participation in a distracted driving course, and a third offense will lead to an insurance surcharge.
What to Do If You’ve Been in a Crash Caused By a Distracted Driver
If you’ve been in a crash caused by a distracted driver in our state, you have the right to seek compensation for the full value of your damages. After reporting the accident, seeking medical care, and telling your insurer about the crash, you should call a qualified Massachusetts car accident lawyer for help navigating your claim.
At the office of Tetzel Law, we here to discuss your case and your options. Reach out to us at (617) 742-1700 for your free consultation.