New Massachusetts Hands-Free Law Is In Effect

A new law regarding the use of hand-held mobile electronic devices became effective on February 23, 2020.

The new law provides that:

• No operator of a motor vehicle shall use a mobile electronic device* unless the device is being used in hands-free mode.
• No operator of a motor vehicle shall read or view text, images or video display on a mobile electronic device*; provided, however, that an operator may view a map generated by a navigation system or application on a mobile electronic device* that is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s windshield, dashboard or center console in a manner that does not impede the operation of the motor vehicle.

Exceptions to this law include:

• Emergency Use which shall mean that the operator needed to report that:

i. the vehicle was disabled;
ii. medical attention or assistance was required
iii. police intervention, fire department or other emergency services were necessary for the personal safety of the operator or a passenger or to
otherwise ensure the safety of the public; or
iv. a disabled vehicle or an accident was present on a roadway.
v. a disabled vehicle or an accident was present on a roadway.

• Public safety personnel or emergency first responders using a mobile electronic device while operating an emergency services vehicle and engaged in the performance of their duties

Penalties for violation of the hands-free law are:

• First Offense: $100 fine
• Second Offense: $250 fine
• Third and Subsequent Offenses: $500 fine

In addition to a fine, an operator who commits a second or subsequent offense of this new law shall be required to complete a program selected by the registrar of motor vehicles that encourages a change in driver behavior and attitude about distracted driving. Nothing in this new law authorizes the seizure or forfeiture of a hands-free mobile telephone or a mobile electronic device.

Surcharges for violations of hands-free law:

• A first or second offense of this law shall not be a surchargeable incident for merit rating purposes;
• A third or subsequent offense shall be a surchargeable merit rating incident.

The law also requires the registrar of motor vehicles, in cooperation with the highway safety division, the department of elementary and secondary education, the department of higher education and municipal law enforcement, to develop and implement an annual public awareness campaign for junior and adult operators.

*For the purpose of this law, the term “Mobile electronic device” shall mean: any hand-held or other portable electronic equipment capable of providing data communication between 2 or more persons, including, without limitation, a mobile telephone, a text messaging device, a paging device, a personal digital assistant, a laptop computer, electronic equipment that is capable of playing a video game or digital video disk, equipment on which digital photographs are taken or transmitted or any combination thereof, or equipment that is capable of visually receiving a television broadcast; provided, however, that mobile electronic device shall not include any audio equipment or any equipment installed, or affixed, either temporarily or permanently, in a motor vehicle for the purpose of providing navigation or emergency assistance to the operator of such motor vehicle or video entertainment to the passengers in the rear seats of such motor vehicle.

Thank you for the opportunity to share this important information with you. As always, if we can help you with any of your insurance needs, please visit one of our 15 conveniently located offices today to learn more about how we can save you money on your insurance. If you prefer, you can contact one of our helpful insurance reps to discuss your insurance needs by calling us at 1-800-897-2837.

Our phone support hours are Monday – Thursday from 8 am to 8 pm, Friday from 8 am to 6 pm, and Saturday from 9 am to 3 pm.

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Massachusetts New “Hands-Free” Law Has Grace Period Until March 31, 2020

Starting April Fools’ Day, violations will result in fines, classes, and insurance surcharges.

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