House Passes Distracted Driving Legislation

House Passes Distracted Driving Legislation

BOSTON - May 17, 2019 - State Representative Joan Meschino joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives to pass legislation banning drivers from using hand-held electronic devices in vehicles unless the device is in hands-free mode.

“Distracted driving is a factor in too many dangerous and fatal motor vehicle accidents, and the House is proud to take this step to move this policy forward for Massachusetts – making our roads safer and protecting our drivers, passengers and pedestrians,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I want to thank Chair Straus for his diligence and hard work, and Leader Wagner, Chair Michlewitz, members of the Black and Latino Caucus, and my colleagues in the House who were instrumental to this process.”

“This measure will increase roadway safety in Massachusetts,” said Representative Meschino. “Distracted driving endangers other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians; I am proud that the House took action on this issue.”

The bill defines hands-free devices as those that engage in voice communication and receiving audio without touching, holding or otherwise manually manipulating the device.  Law enforcement officials have the ability to issue warnings to drivers until Dec. 31, 2019, before the law goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. The bill will also:

  • Allow drivers to use mapping or navigation devices if the device is affixed to the windshield or integrated into the vehicle and involve a single tap or a swipe;
  • Exempt use of electronics in the case of an emergency and for first responders when the devices is used as part of their duties;
  • Penalize drivers with fines $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and $500 for third and subsequent offenses;
  • Bolster existing law by creating compliance measures, requiring the inclusion of race on the uniform citation, and extending this practice to all jurisdictions;
  • Invest $300,000 towards data collection and analysis;
  • Require jurisdictions – if data suggests those jurisdictions may be engaging in racial profiling – to collect data on all traffic stops for a one-year period; and
  • Create a public awareness campaign informing and educating the dangers of using technological devices while driving and the obligations of drivers under this bill.

The bill will now go to the Senate for consideration.