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Laws in Flux on Use of Handheld Devices While Driving

You already know that texting while driving is against the law. But not all uses of hand-held devices like cell phones are illegal. Complicating things still further is that when you cross state lines, there are different laws governing what you can and cannot do with a cellphone.

In Massachusetts, you can talk on your phone while driving as long as one hand is on the steering wheel. But if you drive to Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island or Vermont, not only are you breaking the law if you are driving while holding your phone and talking, but you could be pulled over just for that violation — not as a secondary offense to speeding or another traffic violation.

Under the existing law of Massachusetts, you may not text nor look at the screen of your phone while driving — even if you’re stopped in traffic or at a red light. For drivers under the age of 18, the use of cellphones, even for talking, is banned and the penalties are stiff. A first offense can draw a $100 fine and a 60-day license suspension and require completion of an “attitudinal” course. A repeat offense can result in a $500 fine and a one-year suspension.

In January 2019, Gov. Charlie Baker proposed a bill that would have Massachusetts join its neighbors by making the use of handheld phones by drivers illegal. For the time being, people over the age of 18 can use a handheld phone to chat, but the use of the phone may not interfere with driving. Negligent operation while using a phone is a criminal offense that will result in an insurance surcharge and suspension of your license for 60 days on a first offense.

Whether you are driving through other states or commuting to your job in Massachusetts, avoid using your phone is the best way to avoid accidents and legal trouble. If you are using a navigation system, it (or your phone) should be attached to your dashboard or used only for audio instructions. Even if you are stopped in traffic, avoid looking at your phone, whether you want to see a map or are just wondering who texted you.

If you have been injured in an auto accident involving a driver who texted or was distracted while driving, the lawyers at Swartz & Lynch LLP can help you explore the possible damages recoverable. From our office in downtown Boston, we serve injured clients in the city and the surrounding neighborhoods of Suffolk County. Call us at 857-250-0664 or contact us online to arrange your free initial consultation.

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