BOSTON — Depending on how you use your cellphone on the road, you might want to start dramatically changing your behavior - and soon.
The new hands-free law passed in 2019 and will take effect on Feb. 23, aiming to end hand-held cellphone use on the road.
State and local police departments have already started to prepare to enforce the law, where state troopers are counting on extra manpower next week to be on the lookout on the roads.
Many support the new law, saying it’ll save lives if drivers are focused on the road and not on their phones. So, if you have a habit of texting while driving, you might want to switch to having Siri help you out from now on.
The new law states you absolutely cannot hold your phone in your hand while driving in a car, not even at a stoplight - unless you’re activating hands-free mode. Drivers will still be allowed to use their phones to call 911 or activate a GPS.
“We know even conversation is a level of distraction,” said Cassidy, O’Connor, a spokesperson for AAA. “At least you can keep your focus straight ahead.”
State Police Colonel Christopher Mason says there will be a grace period, where they’ll roll out public education efforts until late March, but after that they will beef up patrols and even tickets.
"It is a massive undertaking and it’s a shift in our public’s culture but it’s a worthy shift,” said Col. Mason.
A first violation will cost you $100, but it goes up to $300 for a third offense and that will even include insurance surcharges. Drivers caught using their phones while driving multiple times will also have to take a mandatory distracted driving class.
On every road, at every light and just about every day, you can find at least one person texting, emailing or chatting while holding their phone. Authorities point to hands-free technologies such as Siri and Bluetooth to help drivers follow the law.
According to MassDOT, between 2015 and 2018, distracted driving lead to 25 deaths and 237 crashes per year, averaging about 5 crashes a week and a death every two weeks.
“In many of these cases, handheld cell phone use was one of the causes of the distraction,” said Jonathan Gulliver, the MassDOT Highway Administrator.
Jerry Cibley’s son Jordan died in 2007 because of a distracted driver. He says, “all drivers need to learn the new law until it becomes ingrained like other lessons we tell our children."
“We need to educate 3-year-olds not only is it stranger danger and stop drop and roll, but it also has to do with be safe in the car and not doing stupid things,” said Cibley.
State Police troopers want people to know they will be thoroughly enforcing the law.
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