While the number of people injured and killed in distracted driving crashes continues to grow, states are passing more laws targeting the use of cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. The hope is that the specified prohibitions will deter drivers from engaging in some of the most dangerous types of distracted driving. Massachusetts is no exception, as a number of laws have been passed in the state, aimed at preventing serious distracted driving collisions.
Distracted driving laws in Massachusetts
On September 30, 2010, three laws intended to put an end to distracted driving became effective in Massachusetts.
The first is designed to prevent drivers under the age of 18 from using mobile telephones, hands-free cellphones and other mobile electronic devices while driving. These so-called novice drivers are not allowed to use a cellphone for any reason - except for emergencies - when behind the wheel.
Another Massachusetts law makes it an offense for the operator of a vehicle used in public transportation to use a cellphone, hands-free mobile telephone, or other mobile electronic device while operating the vehicle. There are exceptions to the law when the use of the cellphone occurs in the performance of the operator's official duties. As with novice drivers, there is also an exception for emergency use.
Finally, Massachusetts law prohibits all drivers - regardless of age - from texting while operating a motor vehicle. The statute provides that "[n]o operator of a motor vehicle shall use a mobile telephone, or any handheld device capable of accessing the internet, to manually compose, send or read an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle." If a motorist is texting while his or her car is stationary and not on a part of the road intended for travel, that individual is not in violation of this law.
Since the passage of these laws, police in Massachusetts have been making more arrests for distracted driving violations. According to police, 1,700 citations were issued for texting and driving in 2012 - up from 1,147 in 2011.
What to do if you are involved in a distracted driving accident
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of drivers killed due to distracted driving has increased in the past few years. In 2011, there were 3,331 people killed in car accidents involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,267 such deaths in 2010.
If you have been in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you should contact an attorney who has experience with personal injury litigation in order to protect your rights.