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Mass. Bans Texting While Stopped At Red Light - 5 Things To Know About New Hands-Free Law

Massachusetts Hands-Free Law went into effect on Feb. 23
Massachusetts Hands-Free Law went into effect on Feb. 23 Photo Credit: By Intel Free Press - https://www.flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress/8598246170/sizes/o/in/photostream/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27917949

Under the new Massachusetts “hands-free” law, a driver can be fined $500 for using a mobile device while operating a vehicle.

The law went into effect on Tuesday, Feb. 23.

Massachusetts Hands-Free Driving Law prohibits the use of any electronic device - including mobile telephones - unless the device is being used in hands-free mode.

And it’s not just the action of texting and driving the new law bans. Clicking around a GPS navigation screen while on the road is also prohibited.

Here are five things every driver should know about the hands-free law in Massachusetts:

1. DON’T TOUCH IT

Holding or supporting any electronic device/phone while driving is not permitted. You cannot touch the device unless to activate the hands-free mode and is properly mounted to the windshield dashboard or center console - no digging around for it in the passenger seat.

2. GPS NAVIGATION

Simple activation of GPS navigation is permitted when the device is installed or properly mounted - but in no other situation. Actions such as driving while tapping in a new address, or manually searching for a nearby gas station are prohibited.

3. NO CHECKING MESSAGES AT RED LIGHTS

Texting while stopped at a red light is banned. Handheld use is allowed only if the vehicle is stationary and not located in a public travel lane or bicycle lane.

4. VOICE-TO-TEXT

Voice to text and communication to electronic devices is legal only when the device is properly mounted. Headphones may be worn in only one ear.

5. UNDER 18

Drivers under age 18 are not allowed to use any electronic devices - even if they are in hands-free mode.

Penalties for breaking the hands-free law are a $100 fine for a first offense, a $200 fine, plus mandatory completion of a distracted driving educational program for a second offense, and $500 fine plus insurance surcharge and mandatory completion of a distracted driving educational program for third and subsequent offenses. 

Police officers have been encouraged to issue warnings, instead of fines, for the first few months of the law's implementation.

For more information, visit mass.gov.

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