texting ban


Lower Than Expected Citations for Texting & Driving

Massachusetts is reporting a lower number of texting while driving citations than expected.  Since September 30th a grand total of 245 drivers across the state have been ticketed on the offense, of those a mere 16 were given to drivers less than 18 years of age. It is possible drivers have found the strength to turn off their cell phones or chucked their PDA to the back seat; then again – maybe they’ve found a way to text without being caught.

After a long legislative debate the texting ban was enacted September 30th of 2010. The new legislation is intended to make roads safer and drivers more alert to their surroundings. It has been thought the low citation numbers across the state, totaling less than 3 per day, may exhibit the difficulty officers face in determining if drivers are using their phones and pda’s behind the wheel.

The texting citation, although not a surchargeable ticket, will cost you a pretty penny. The fine totals $100.00 for drivers over the age of 18. Drivers less than 18 years of age caught texting and driving may face heavier fines, license suspension, and additional driving courses to re-instate a licnese.

New technologies have made it possible to hold incoming messages, send auto responses, and even read incoming messages to you. Weighing the risk of facing a fine, suspension for the under-agers, and placing your life and many others in danger – is that text message really worth it?

Twenty-Nine Texting & Driving Citations

A recent publication by the Massachusetts RMV suggests some Bay State drivers have yet to adjust to the new texting and driving ban. As of October 15th Massachusetts has served 29 citations regarding new regulations.

Mary Beth Heffernan, Public Safety Secretary, commented:

“Distracted driving is a serious threat to public safety. Cracking down on distracted drivers is imperative… We must reduce the threat posed by those who don’t give their undivided attention to the road while behind the wheel.”

Reinforcing Heffernan’s efforts here are a few things to remember before texting behind the wheel:

  • Drivers Less Than 18 Years of Age: Drivers younger than 18 years are not banned from using a cell phone while driving. If cited the teen driver can face a $100 – $500 fine, 90 day – 1 year suspension of license and/or required to complete a required attitudinal retraining course.
  • Drivers violating use of electronic device: Drivers of 18 years and older may face fines of $100 – $500.
  • Drivers with 3+ Surchargeable Citations: Drivers accruing 3+ surchargable citations in a two year time period may face suspension of license and required to complete a driver retraining course.

For more information on the texting and driving legislation please visit the RMV website.

Massachusetts Roads Remain Among Safest

This past month the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported motor vehicle fatalities sharply declined in 2009. At an all time low the fatality rate reported was only 1.13 deaths per every 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Incredibly the total number of deaths is nearing those of 1950 in a time of less traffic, lower populations and shorter commutes.

The report shows a decrease in fatalities of 9.7% while miles traveled from 2008 to 2009 still showed a slight increase. Massachusetts remains one of the safest states to drive as motor vehicle fatalities fell from 354 in 2008 to 334 in 2009. Additionally the number of deaths attributed to alcohol decreased from 120 to 108. The government attributes the fatality decline to many improvements and precautions including: an advancement in vehicle design, increased use of seat belts, and standard air bags included in vehicles that previously lacked air bags.

These statistical improvements are great, however it is important to realized even these numbers can be better. The number of distracted drivers on the road will hopefully decrease further with the recent texting ban. While driving, remember you have the lives of many in your hands. Put the cell phone away, set down your mascara/ razor and focus on the road.

Texting Behind the Wheel Bill: PASSED

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation H4794 into law last week banning drivers from texting behind the wheel. The new law has made Massachusetts the 29th state to pass a law restricting texting behind the wheel. The passed legislation bans drivers from reading or writing an e-mail, texting and basically anything that doesn’t include talking on the phone while driving. Drivers over age 18 will still be permitted to take phone calls while behind the wheel.

Drivers under 18 years are prohibited from using a cell phone while behind the wheel. On a first offense the teenager can face a fine of $100 and a 60 day license suspension. If a suspension is given, the driver will have to complete a driver attitudinal course in order to reinstate their license. For repeat offenses charges can reach up to $500. These fines will not be considered a moving violation and is not expected to affect a driver’s surcharge.

“Texting while driving has become a serious threat to the safety of our roads and drivers… We have taken strong action to keep our roads safe by banning texting while driving and instituting needed measures to keep impaired drivers off the road. Protecting the safety of our residents is our most important task as elected officials and this bill will do just that.”

– House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo

The new law affects mature drivers as well. Those 75 years or older will need to renew their licenses in person and pass a vision text every five years to keep a current license. Under current laws these drivers have only needed to renew in person every 10 years. Further than the young and elderly, any driver who accrues three or more surchargeable incidents within a two-year period will be required to take a driver retraining and safety course or face a license suspension.

The new law is to take effect in October when officers may pull over any driver suspected of using a cell phone for a purpose other than making or receiving a phone call behind the wheel.

Senate Reviews Texting & Elderly Driving Bill

The Massachusetts Senate voted yesterday to ban texting while driving and to require elderly drivers to undergo regular cognitive and physical screenings every three years. The controversial bill finally made its way through the Senate with a 24 – 10 vote. The bill awaits a compromise between the House and Senate differences and lastly an approval by Governor Patrick Deval before it can be enforced by law. If this bill passes to law Massachusetts will join 19 other states that ban texting while behind the wheel. At any given time during the day in 2008 more than 800,000 drivers were using hand-held devices in their cars according to the United States Department of Transportation distracted driving website: distraction.gov.

The Senate rejected a portion of the House bill that would ban all cell phone use except by a hands-free device. The initial bill made proposed to make text messaging while driving a secondary offense, meaning an officer may only issue a citation if the driver was pulled over for a different violation than texting. The Senate rejected this as well and upgraded texting while driving to a primary offense.

The Senate’s revisions to the bill have created the following measures:

  • Require drivers over 75 to pass an examination of the motorist’s cognitive and physical capabilities.
  • Elderly drivers who fail the cognitive or physical examination may protest the RMV’s decision by taking a driving test demonstrating they hold the necessary driving skills for continued licensing.
  • Civil immunity would be granted to physicians and officers who report, or fail to report, an individual who demonstrated unsafe and improper use of a cell phone or is not physically capable of driving.
  • When a violation of the texting law has been reported to the RMV the driver’s license will be suspended.
  • Drivers who attain 3 surchargeable incidents in a 2 year time frame must either take a driver’s training course or face a suspended license. Current laws require this measure after 5 surchargeable incidents in a 3 year period.
  • Prohibits the use of cell phones for talking or texting for public transit operators.

The bills from both congressional bodies have been sent to a joint Senate and House committee to conjure a compromised version of the proposed measures. Keep an eye on the news for this piece of legislature, it is bound to affect every Massachusetts driver.

Cell Phone Bill Proceeds to Senate

February 4th the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill banning texting while driving and requiring drivers to use a hands free device. The bill also restricts the use of cell phones by anyone under the age of 18 and requires drivers over 75 years to have a mandatory vision exam when their license is renewed every five years. A great success the legislation passed through the Massachusetts House of Representatives with a land slide vote of 146 to 9. However it has not been passed into law just yet, the bill must endure the senate’s scrutiny as well. If the legislation makes it to law it will make Massachusetts the 20th state to ban texting while driving and the 7th state to ban direct use of a hand-held cell phone.

Although strong support for bill was evident in the House of Representatives the legislation still needs to pass through the Senate to be enforced. Some opponents of the bill believe it impedes on the citizens civil rights and liberties. However a great number of representatives, including State Representative Carl Sciortino, believe the drivers safety and health take precedence. A similar bill was proposed the the Massachusetts government however never made it to law. Massachusetts Representatives, even some who approved the legislation, remain mixed about how strict they believe cell phone laws should be.

If the new legislation passes through the Massachusetts Senate violators will be charged $100 on the first offense, $250 on the second offense, and $500 on the third offense. The bill allows for insurance companies to decide for themselves whether or not to add a surcharge to drivers rates should they abuse cell phone use while driving. Also drivers under age 18 caught violating any of the restrictions found in the new legislation would have their license suspended. The new bill, if passed, is not to be taken lightly as made obvious by serious consequences if violated.

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