Gov. Baker Signs Hands-Free Driving Bill Into Massachusetts Law

Lawmakers passed the bill in a 38-1 vote in the Senate and 153-1 vote in the House

What to Know

  • Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill Monday that would make it illegal to hold a cellphone while driving.
  • Massachusetts is the last New England state to implement such a law.
  • The law takes effect on Feb. 23; however, there will be a grace period during which first-time offenders will get a warning.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed the long-awaited bill Monday that would make it illegal to hold a cellphone while driving in the Bay State.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the hands-free driving bill with a 38-1 vote in the Senate and 153-1 vote from the House. Baker signed the bill just after 3 p.m.

The move makes Massachusetts the final state in New England to pass such a law. 

After the signing, Baker said he was proud of the new law which will improve road safety and "make a real difference in stopping distracted driving" in the Commonwealth.

"Operaters driving a car should not be holding a phone to text, check social media, or email. When a driver on an electronic device hits something or someone, that's not an accident. That's a crash that was avoidable," Baker said.

The governor added that he was happy Massachusetts was joining the other New England states in the effort to prevent further injuries on the roadways.

At the signing were Richard and Anna Levitan, who lost their 18-year-old daughter in 2013 after she was struck and killed by a distracted driver.

"Hopefully no other family has to suffer what we suffered," Anna Levitan said.

Jerry Cibley's son Jordan also died because of distracted driving back in 2017. The new legislation is bringing the Cibley family some relief.

"My son didn't die in vain, he is a memorial to others and will help assure the safety of others who are driving and hopefully no one has to walk in my shoes again," Cibley said.

The bill will penalize drivers who are caught holding an electronic device while behind the wheel. The use of such devices will still be allowed, but with hands-free technology, such as Bluetooth, car mounts and voice-to-text functions.

First-time offenders will face a $100 fine; a second offense will bring a $250 fine and a required driver’s safety course; and subsequent offenses will come with a $500 fine and a surcharge to the driver’s insurance.

Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason applauded the passing of the hands-free legislation on Twitter.

"As first responders to serious crashes across the state every day, Massachusetts State Troopers know too well the consequences of distracted driving. We thank the Baker-Polito Administration and the Legislature for this important new tool to help us combat this dangerous behavior. Today is a day that will make our roads safer."

The bill will requires the Registry of Motor Vehicles to collect data from traffic stops, including the driver's age, race and gender without identifying the driver to help identify police agencies that may be engaging in racial profiling.

The law will take effect Feb. 23, 2020. However, a grace period will be implemented through March 31 during which first-time offenders would receive only a warning. 

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