Massachusetts Texting Law
Distracted driving is a deadly driver mistake. Driving while distracted makes it impossible for a driver to safely control his or her vehicle. It slows reflexes and reaction times, increasing the risk of causing a collision. Distracted driving leads to thousands of car accidents in the U.S. each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 3,166 deaths connected to distracted driving in 2017 alone. Like most states, Massachusetts has taken a stand against distracted driving by passing related laws and driver restrictions. One of the most important anti-distracted driving laws in Massachusetts is the texting and driving law.
Why Is Texting So Dangerous?
Most states’ distracted driving laws focus on banning cellphone use behind the wheel. Cellphone use is one of the most dangerous causes of driver distraction. Cellphones can detract all three of a driver’s facilities from the driving task: the hands, eyes and brain. Cellphones present manual, visual and cognitive distractions. The NHTSA says looking at a cellphone for just five seconds behind the wheel is equal to driving across a football field with one’s eyes closed if traveling at 55 miles per hour. Using an electronic device in any manner could significantly increase a driver’s risk of causing an accident in Massachusetts.
- Video chatting
- Watching videos
- Using social media
- Using other apps
- Looking at a GPS
- Taking photos or videos
Most states that enact cellphone laws ban at least the use of handheld devices while driving. Thanks to hands-free technologies such as Bluetooth, a driver can use a cellphone without looking at or touching the device. While any type of cellphone use could distract a driver enough to cause a crash, hands-free technologies diminish this risk. Some states, however, ban all forms of cellphone use, especially for young drivers. Cellphone statutes serve to spread awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and to decrease the number of related texting and driving car accidents within a state.
What Does the Texting Law in Massachusetts Say?
Drivers Under Age 18
In Massachusetts, it is illegal for drivers under age 18 to use cellphones or other electronic devices at all while driving – whether the device is handheld or hands-free. Underage drivers must focus 100% of their attention on the road at all times. Using any device to text or talk, unless for an emergency, can result in a $100 fine, 60-day driver’s license suspension and a mandatory education course for drivers under 18 for a first offense. Second and subsequent cellphone use offenses can result in higher fines and longer license suspension sentences.
Drivers Over Age 18
Currently, Massachusetts and Maine are the only New England states that have not passed universal hands-free laws for adult drivers. Although the State Senate has approved a hands-free bill, Senate Bill 2103, twice, lawmakers have stalled the passing of the bill into law. The bill proposes making it illegal to use handheld devices while driving for drivers over 18. Although Massachusetts currently bans the specific act of texting and driving, it says nothing about other handheld cellphone uses, such as taking photos or watching videos. Should the act pass into law, adult drivers would not be able to use handheld devices for any reason except in emergencies in Massachusetts.
As of 2019, no driver may text and drive in Massachusetts. The state bans texting and driving for underage and adult drivers. The penalty if an adult breaks this law is a fine: $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for subsequent offenses. Adults who break the texting and driving law will not be subject to additional repercussions such as driver’s education classes or driver’s license suspension, however. The heavy fine is often enough to dissuade adult drivers from texting while driving in Massachusetts – not to mention the risk of causing a serious accident.
A driver that causes injuries or deaths while texting and driving in Massachusetts could face criminal and civil liabilities. If you or a loved one was a victim in a texting and driving accident, our Boston car accident lawyers can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with our top-rated Boston personal injury lawyer.