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.
Thursday the Massachusetts House passed a bill that would make it the 7th state requiring drivers to use a hands free device behind the wheel and 20th state to ban texting. This is not the House’s first attempt to pass these types of laws. Two years ago a similar measure was passed by the House however soon after died in the Senate. There it was believed the hands free device was more of an inconvenience that did not improve drivers safety.
The new bill was approved this last week by a House vote of 146 to 9. This restriction however was not the only provision held in the legislation. It would also ban drivers from text messaging behind the wheel, prohibit the use of cell phones behind the wheel of those 18 years and under, and require drivers over 75 to take a vision test every 5 years. Drivers are currently required to renew their license every 5 years, however only take a vision test every 10 years. This bill would enforce stricter driving laws many feel are overdue.
Drivers who are caught texting or talking without a hands-free-device would be fined on the first offense $100, on the second offense $250, and a whopping $500 on the third offense. The bill would allow insurance companies to decide themselves whether a surcharge will be used if the new restrictions are passed. Drivers under 18 years caught using a cell phone behind the wheel would have their license suspended.
Senate members have mixed feelings about how strict these laws should actually be. Previous studies have suggested talking on a hands free device verses the actual phone leave drivers equally distracted by the conversation. Some members of the senate are pushing for the hands free device to aid law enforcement’s efforts. A point was made that if texting was banned however the hands free portion of the bill was not passed, how would officers know if a driver was placing a call or sending a text message? Looks as if we’ll just have to wait and see what the Senate as a whole makes of it.