How often do we see other motorists engaging in tasks that have nothing to do with driving? Whether it involves using a cellphone, eating, drinking, multitasking, or tuning a car radio, distracted driving is all around us.
A recent study conducted by a smartphone driving platform, TrueMotion Inc., tracked the cellphone use of roughly 30,000 participants, according to Bloomberg. The data from the study found that for every 100 drivers, there is at least one driver who is distracted 40-50 percent of the time. Roughly 30 drivers are distracted less than five percent of the time.
In addition, Bloomberg cites data from the National Safety Council that finds:
- Fatal crashes involving cellphone use have decreased in recent years.
- Nonfatal crashes involving injuries have increased.
What are lawmakers doing about distracted driving?
Historically, all but one state in New England had bans on cellphone use while driving. That, however, is about to change.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker recently signed a bill into law that will prohibit drivers from using cellphones or other electronic handheld devices behind the wheel. The bill initially passed the House and Senate in the spring, but the bill was slowed by racial profiling concerns brought up in a conference committee.
The governor is optimistic that once this law goes into effect, it will significantly reduce distracted driving in Massachusetts.
"Operators driving a car should not be holding a phone to text, check social media or email," said Governor Baker. "When a driver on an electronic device hits something or someone, that's not an accident. It's a crash that was avoidable."
What does the distracted driving law entail?
Massachusetts lawmakers previously passed a law banning texting and driving, but it didn't necessarily apply to other forms of cellphone distraction. Once the new law takes effect on February 23, 2020, drivers will be prohibited from using handheld devices for any reason, unless it's for emergency purposes.
- Typing, reading, or sending text-based communications
- Scrolling or swiping
- Browsing the internet or social media
- Taking pictures and videos
- Watching videos
- Making phone calls by hand
- Simply holding a cellphone
- Blocking a bike lane to check or use a cellphone
The law will allow drivers to do the following:
- Use voice-to-text
- Use hands-free or Bluetooth technology
- Talk on speaker phone
What are the new penalties?
Until the end of March 2020, drivers will only be issued warnings if caught using handheld devices behind the wheel. After that, the following penalties will apply:
- $100 fine for a first offense
- $250 fine for a second offense
- $500 fine for a third or subsequent offense
Those who are caught repeatedly using cellphones while driving could also face car insurance surcharges or driver training requirements.
Will the new law curb distracted driving?
Whether or not distracted driving in Massachusetts will decrease once the law goes into effect remains to be seen. While we may see a dip in cellphone use, the law doesn't apply to other forms of distracted driving.
Even when handheld devices aren't involved, serious and fatal crashes can still be caused by drivers looking away from the road, taking their hands off the wheel, or taking their minds off of driving.
That's why if you were hurt in a crash because another driver failed to pay attention to the road, you may be eligible for compensation through a car accident claim. The Massachusetts car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone will gladly take the time to investigate your crash, review your medical evaluation, and take on the insurance companies.
You shouldn't have to pay because of someone else's negligence. To find out how we can help you, contact us online and schedule your free case evaluation with our legal team.