November 25 2019

New Law Prohibits Drivers from All Non Hands-Free Use of Electronics


A new law, supported by Burlington’s representatives in the State House, is meant to keep drivers’ eyes on the road and off their devices. 


On Monday, Governor Charlie Baker signed the so-called distracted driver bill, first filed in 2003, into law. 


On November 20, Senator Cindy F. Friedman and Representative Ken Gordon, along with their colleagues in the House and Senate, passed the legislation to ban drivers from using hand-held electronic devices in vehicles unless they are in hands-free mode. 


Both legislators spoke of how the new law will make the roads safer for everyone. 


“The safety of our residents is paramount,” said Sen. Friedman. “This long overdue bill will protect our drivers and pedestrians as well as reduce the rate of tragic accidents caused by distracted driving on our roads. I’m proud the Legislature passed this commonsense bill, and am grateful that our busy roads and highways in the 4th Middlesex will become safer for everyone as a result.” 


“This is a bill that will save lives as soon as it is enforced,” Rep. Gordon said. “Too many times, we read about severe injuries caused by distracted drivers. I’m proud to join almost all of my colleagues in supporting this important piece of legislation.” 


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.  


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 increases 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.

- 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.

- Create a public awareness campaign informing and educating drivers on the dangers of using technological devices while driving.


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