States across the country are starting to adopt laws preventing the use of mobile devices while driving. Such a law is already in effect in nearby Maine and New Hampshire. The Massachusetts hands-free driving law is likely to pass this week. As a driver in Massachusetts, it is extremely important that you understand this new law. Here’s a quick overview.
As the phrase implies, your hands must not be occupied holding a mobile device while driving. Texting while driving in Massachusetts was already outlawed, but drivers were still allowed to hold cellphones to their ear while on a call. Once this new law is passed, you can no longer do that. Instead, you must rely on hands-free devices such as headphones, bluetooth enabled speakers (included in most modern vehicles), or the speaker on your phone. This applies whether your car is moving or stopped at a light. The only exception is for emergencies, such as medical issues, reporting accidents, or notifying police of an issue that impacts public safety.
Penalties for Failure to Comply
Law enforcement has the right to pull you over and ticket you if they witness you breaking this law. The fine for a first offense is $100. If you are caught a second time, it goes up to $250 and you will be required to take a safety course on distraction-free driving. A third penalty will result in a whopping $500 fine. These fines, alone, should be enough incentive to comply with the new law.
Best Practices for the Massachusetts Hands-Free Driving Law
Even without such laws, distraction-free driving saves lives. We all should adopt these best practices when it comes to cell phone use in cars.
- Mount Your Phone – Purchase an inexpensive phone mount for your car. This can be helpful for GPS usage, which is still allowed, but also for voice activated dialing or using your phone’s speaker to talk hands-free.
- Enable Bluetooth – If your car has bluetooth, take the time to set it up. Using the car’s speakers is safer than wearing headphones, since headphones may limit your ability to hear other important sounds around your car.
- Use Single Headphones – If you do wear headphones, put them only in one ear while driving. This leaves your other ear available to hear car and road noises.
- Use Voice Activated Features – Most modern smart phones have voice-to-dial capability. Use this when driving so that you won’t need to look at or touch your phone to make a call.
The Massachusetts hands-free driving law is likely to pass this week. Even if it does not, consider driving hands-free for your own safety.