An Act Requiring the Hands-free Use of Mobile Telephones While Driving

On Monday, November 25, 2019, Governor Baker signed into law An Act requiring the hands-free use of mobile telephones while driving. The new legislation will take effect on February 23, 2020. Below are the key points in the new law.

Definition of ‘Hands-free mode’

• Operation of a mobile electronic device by which a user engages in a voice communication or receives audio without touching or holding the device; provided, however, that a mobile electronic device may require a single tap or swipe to activate, deactivate or initiate the hands-free mode feature.

G.L. c. 90, §13B – composing, sending or reading electronic messages while operating a motor vehicle prohibited; penalties

Strikes the current language of section 13B and replaces it with the following:

• No operator of a motor vehicle shall hold a mobile electronic device.

• No operator shall use a mobile electronic device unless the device is in

hands-free mode.

• No operator shall read or view text, images or video displayed on a mobile electronic device.

• An operator may view a GPS navigation app on a device as long as the device is affixed to a vehicle’s windshield, dashboard or center console in a manner that does not impede operation.

• An operator shall not be considered operating if the vehicle is stationary and not located in a part of the public way intended for travel by a motor vehicle or bicycle.

• Evidence of emergency is an affirmative defense to mobile phone use. An emergency shall mean:

1. the vehicle was disabled;

2. medical attention or assistance was required;

3. police intervention, fire department or other emergency services were necessary for the personal safety of the operator or a passenger or to otherwise ensure the safety of the public; or

4. a disabled vehicle or an accident was present on the roadway.

• This section does not apply to public safety personnel or emergency first responders using a

device while operating an emergency services vehicle and engaged in the performance of their

duties.

• The fines under this section:

1. 1st offense: $100.00

2. 2nd offense: $250.00

3. 3rd or subsequent: $500.00

Exception: Section 13. No person, when operating a motor vehicle, shall permit to be on or in the vehicle or on or about his person anything which may interfere with or impede the proper operation of the vehicle or any equipment by which the vehicle is operator or controlled, except that a person may operate a motor vehicle while using a federally licensed 2–way radio or mobile telephone, except as provided in sections 8M, 12A and 13B, as long as 1 hand remains on the steering wheel at all times.

G.L. c. 90, §8M – Use of mobile hands-free electronic device by person under 18 years of age

• No person under 18 years of age shall hold in their hand or, use a mobile telephone, hands-free mobile telephone or mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle on any public way. For purposes of this section, a junior operator shall not be considered to be operating a motor vehicle if the vehicle is stationary and not located in a part of the public way intended for travel by a motor vehicle or bicycle.

• The fines under this section:

1. 1st offense: $100.00

2. 2nd offense: $250.00

3. 3rd or subsequent: $500.00

• The license suspensions under this section:

1. 1st offense: 60 day loss of license

2. 2nd or subsequent offense: 180 day loss of license

• An operator who commits a second or subsequent offense of this section shall now be required to complete a program that encourages change in driver behavior and attitude about distracted driving.

Effective Dates

• The act shall take effect 90 days after passage.

• An operator shall be issued a warning for a first offense violation of G.L. c. 90, §13B occurring

after the effective date of this act until March 31, 2020, inclusive, unless the violation under §13B is for typing or reading an electronic message.

For other recent case law decisions, go to the MDAA website at www.mass.gov/mdaa