Now that the calendar has turned to March, you may be wondering about that Distracted Driving Law that was signed by Governor Charlie Baker in November of last year and went into effect February 23rd. What does the law require of you as a driver, and what are the consequences of non-compliance?
First and foremost, this particular Distracted Driving Law is meant to make the Massachusetts roads and highways safer by preventing drivers from talking on the phone, texting, and/or momentarily looking away from the road to handle their smartphone.
You may think that you can multitask fairly well in the car, especially if there is a red light or traffic that is at a standstill. Unfortunately, the statistics from the Department of Transportation and Department of Motor Vehicles show an entirely different picture. Here are just a few of the shocking statistics from studies conducted about drivers who were injured or died due to distracted driving.
- When you send a text, you take your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds. That’s the time it takes to drive the length of a football field going 55 MPH! (U.S. Department of Transportation).
- You are 3 times more likely to get into an accident when distracted by a cell phone while driving (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute).
- 9 people in the U.S. are killed each day as a result of crashes involving a distracted driver. (Department of Motor Vehicles)
- Distracted driving accounts for approximately 25% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities.
How Do I Comply with the Law?
The law officially took effect on February 23rd, but there is currently a grace period where drivers will be warned until the full effect of the law officially begins on April 1, 2020. After April, drivers will not be allowed to use electronic devices such as phones while driving unless using a hands-free mode.
Hands-free devices using technologies such as Bluetooth are permitted. The law also allows for a “single tap or swipe” to activate or deactivate the hands-free mode.That means that if you’re calling someone from the driver’s seat, make sure you can do it without holding the phone.
Drivers also cannot read text messages or look at pictures or videos, unless they are viewing something that helps with navigation and the device is mounted in an appropriate location, such as the car’s windshield, dashboard, or center console.
There are exceptions to the law including: use of a phone in an emergency when medical attention is needed, calling for the police or fire department, or in the case of a disabled vehicle on the side of the road.
What Are the Consequences of Non-Compliance?
The most important consequence of this legislation is the risk of injury or death to yourself or another driver on the road. Secondly, there are monetary consequences as well. Once the grace period ends April 1, the first offense will result in a $100 fine. However, repeat offenders can expect to pay $250 for the second violation, and $500 for the third and each subsequent offense. Although the first two violations will not affect drivers’ insurance rates, a third infraction or anything beyond that will count as surchargeable incidents. Anyone with more than one infraction will have to complete a program focused on distracted driving prevention.
Do you have questions regarding the new legislation and how it could impact you? Call our offices at Phil Richard Insurance (978) 774-4338.