BOSTON – After it was passed by the House of Representatives and the State Senate, Governor Baker signed legislation into law last month banning drivers from using hand-held electronic devices in vehicles unless they are in hands-free mode.
The bill defines hands-free mode as one 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.
“Our communities face an epidemic of distracted driving, putting the health and safety of all our residents at risk” said Senator Jason Lewis. “Accidents, injuries and deaths caused by distracted driving are completely preventable, and this bill will improve road safety and protect the lives of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.”
Additionally, this legislation improves transparency in public safety by granting expanded access to traffic stop data. It has been 15 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 improves public safety outcomes.
The bill will also:
- Allow for drivers to use mapping or navigation devices if they are affixed to the windshield, dashboard or central console or integrated into the vehicle and only involve a tap or a swipe;
- Exempt use of electronics in the case of an emergency and for first responders if they are using the devices as part of their duties;
- Penalize drivers with $100 fine for the first offence, $250 fine and safety course for the second offence and $500 fine and 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 those jurisdictions 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 (EOPPS) to publish data online annually, conduct an annual analysis of the data collected, and hold public hearings to review findings; and
- Create a public awareness campaign informing and educating drivers on the dangers of using technological devices while driving.