Massachusetts Legislature Passes Distracted Driving Legislation

Massachusetts Legislature Passes Distracted Driving Legislation

(BOSTON) – This week, Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the Legislature to enact legislation to ban drivers from using hand-held electronic devices while operating a vehicle unless the device is in hands-free mode.

“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” as a device mode that engages in voice communication with and receiving audio without touching, holding or otherwise manually manipulating a mobile electronic device. Law enforcement officials will issue warnings to drivers for first offenses of the new law until March 31, 2020.  

Additionally, this legislation improves transparency in public safety by granting expanded access to traffic stop data.  It has been fifteen years since the last public report on traffic stop data; under this bill the state will be required to publish and analyze the data annually.  Expanding access to this information improves transparency and public safety outcomes.

The bill will also:

  • Allow drivers to use mapping or navigation devices if the device is affixed to the windshield, dashboard or central console or integrated into the vehicle and only involve a tap or a swipe;
  • Exempt use of electronic devices in the case of an emergency and for first responders if the device is used as part of their duties;
  • Penalize drivers with $100 fine for the first offence, $250 fine and a safety course for the second offence, and $500 fine and an insurance surcharge for third and subsequent offences;
  • Expand data collection of identifying characteristics including age, race and gender and location when police issue a uniform citation;
  • Hold law enforcement agencies accountable if data suggests a jurisdiction may be engaging in racial profiling, by requiring them to collect data on all traffic stops for a one-year period and provide implicit bias training;
  • Require the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS) to publish data online annually;
  • Mandate EOPSS to contract with a research institution to conduct an annual analysis of the data collected;
  • Direct the EOPSS Secretary to hold three public hearings across the Commonwealth annually to present the findings of the annual report and analysis and field public testimony; and
  • Create a public awareness campaign informing and educating drivers on the dangers of using technological devices while driving.

The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.