Putting a Hard Stop to Distracted Driving 

Katherine Bernier, Staff Writer

There is a new law going into effect in Massachusetts that will have an impact on teens. The problem is distracted driving–many people have suffered in accidents due to a driver who was not paying attention. Governor Charlie Baker who signed the bill into law said, “When a driver on an electronic device hits something or someone, that’s not an accident. It’s a crash that was avoidable.” While there was already a ban on texting and driving, it didn’t specify doing anything else on a handheld device is wrong. 

The new law goes into effect on February 23, and it bans any use of a handheld device while driving. Drivers will have to use another way, such as speakerphones or devices built into the car, to communicate while driving–it must be in hands-free mode. Operators can only look at a device if it is helping with navigation, and it must be mounted in an appropriate location. 

The law permits use only if drivers are stopped or not in a lane of travel. Another exception is in emergencies. There will be a grace period until March when drivers will only receive a warning. After that, a first offense will cost $100, a second offense $250, and anything after that will be $500. There is also the possibility of having insurance charges if a driver keeps repeating the offense. Also, after a second offense, drivers must complete an educational program to focus on distracted driving prevention. 

The data is required to be reported to the RMV, and they will take note of things such as age, race, and gender, which will be released to the public annually. This will be done to ensure no racial profiling is happening. The new law will impact students at SHS, as they are in the age group that grew up with cellphones. The National Safety Council reports two out of three teens admitted to using apps while driving (Guard Child). In Massachusetts, we will soon see the effects a tougher law will have on road safety and how well teens will adjust.