Hands-free Cellphone Law Takes Effect in Massachusetts

BOURNE – Massachusetts drivers will no longer be allowed to hold any electronic device, including cellphones, while driving a motor vehicle beginning Sunday.

Governor Charlie Baker signed the bill in November, and the new ban goes into effect on Sunday, February 23 with an extended grace period. First time offenders will only receive warnings up until March 31.

From there, fines of $100, $250, and $500 will be charged, depending on the driver’s previous offenses. Insurance charges will also be applied upon a third violation.

“When you get behind the wheel of a car, it should be your sole responsibility to just maintain control of that vehicle and get eyes on the road,” said Lt. Brandon Esip of the Bourne Police Department.

An exception for handheld electronic device usage in the law is reporting emergencies, such as a disabled vehicle or the need for medical, police, and fire services.

The original ban on texting while driving was passed in 2010. Since then, police officers have said that the law is difficult to enforce since drivers may not necessarily be texting behind the wheel.

Esip explained that a complete ban of electronic device usage will make things more clear for both officers and the public.

“So, this eliminates that confusion and helps get to the root of the problem, which is preventing people from being distracted behind the wheel,” he said.

The bill will allow for devices to be utilized for their navigation features, but only if they are separately mounted elsewhere in a vehicle and not in the driver’s hand.

Drivers will also be allowed to briefly touch the device to answer and hang up phone calls, although they cannot hold the phone through the length of the call.

About Brendan Fitzpatrick

Brendan, a recent graduate from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, is one of the newest members of the CapeCod.com NewsCenter team. When not on the beat, you'll probably find him watching Boston sports.

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