Something as innocent as looking at your phone or daydreaming can cause a serious accident, injury, or even death.
And that’s not even an exaggeration.
Distracted driving is one of the major causes of accidents in the US.
It’s no wonder, then, that Massachusetts implements a few distracted driving laws.
Today, we’re going to look at those laws. We’ll also look at the penalties, other forms of distracted driving, and so much more.
So welcome to your complete guide to Massachusetts distracted driving laws.
Distracted Driving Laws in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, there are 3 distracted driving laws, namely:
- Hands-Free Mobile Phone Use Law
- Headphone Law
- Vehicle Television Law
Let’s take a close look at each one.
Hands-Free Mobile Phone Use Law
According to Massachusetts law…
“You are not allowed to use any electronic device, including mobile phones, while behind the wheel unless they are used hands-free.”
This means that you are NOT allowed to text, email, take pictures and videos, use apps or browse the internet when you’re driving or if you are on any public travel lane or bicycle lane.
That said, you CAN use your mobile phone, or any other electronic device, if it is in hands-free mode.
However, for drivers below 18 years old, the hands-free mode is not even allowed. The only exception for teens to use their phones is when contacting for an emergency or reporting a crime.
Other than the use of electronic devices, Massachusetts has also declared that the use of headphones or earbuds is illegal when you are driving.
You are only allowed to use earbuds or headphones if it aids in operating a motor vehicle.
You are also allowed to use earbuds or headphones if you only use them over one ear.
The reason behind prohibiting the use of earbuds or headphones is that these devices can distract you from driving.
Remember, loud music can be an auditory distraction. In effect, you’re unable to focus solely on the road and your driving.
Vehicle Television Law
Another law that prevents distracted driving is the Vehicle Television Law.
This law states that…
“A television viewer, screen, or other devices that receive broadcast or video signals are not allowed to be placed in front or at the back of the driver’s seat.”
These devices should not be visible to the driver to ensure that they are not distracted by what’s being shown on the screen.
Distracted Driving Penalties in Massachusetts
Massachusetts uses primary enforcement when it comes to its distracted driving laws. In other words, if a traffic enforcer sees you texting while driving, they can immediately pull you over even if you have no other traffic violations.
Now, if you are caught violating any of the three laws above, you will be fined:
- First violation – $100
- Second violation – $250
- Third or subsequent violations – $500
- School buses – $500 per violation
If you are under 18 years old, the penalties are more severe as you can also lose your license for at least 6 months.
And if an injury or death is caused by your distracted driving, you will most likely face criminal charges and imprisonment.
The 4 Types of Distracted Driving
Though the State of Massachusetts only has 3 distracted driving laws, there are many other distractions that you should avoid.
Here are the 4 types of distracted driving:
- Visual – when the distraction causes you to take your eyes off the road
- Manual – when the distraction causes you to take one or both hands off the steering wheel
- Cognitive – when the distraction takes your mind or focus from driving
- Auditory – when the distraction is a sound that makes it difficult to focus on the road
Some examples of these 4 distractions include:
- Eating or drinking
- Reading an email or text message
- Navigating a map (physical or mobile)
- Having a heated argument in the car
- Trying to manage the kids or pets
- Looking at the person in the back
- Getting things from the back seat or a bag beside you
Most of these distracted driving behaviors are not illegal, especially if they don’t involve mobile phone use. However, know that these behaviors are equally as dangerous.
If you need to take your eyes off the road or hands off the steering wheel, make sure to park at a designated parking lot.
Frequently Asked Questions
Want to know more about the distracted driving laws in the state? Here are some FAQs for more information.
Is eating while driving illegal in Massachusetts?
It’s not illegal to eat or drink (and no we don’t mean alcohol) while driving in Massachusetts. But keep in mind that eating while driving is considered a distraction. If you need to eat, we recommend parking at a gas station or parking lot before you drive again.
Is driving barefoot illegal in MA?
Driving barefoot is legal in Massachusetts. There is no law prohibiting anyone from driving bare feet. However, if that is a form of distraction to you, then it must be avoided.
Can you use a phone at a stop light in Massachusetts?
Unfortunately, you can’t. Under Massachusetts law, you can only hold an electronic mobile device if you are at a full stop and not at a public travel lane or bicycle lane.
If you are 18 and above, you can use your phone in hands-free mode.
Can you use a GPS while driving in Massachusetts?
Yes, you can use a GPS or any navigation device as long as it is mounted. If you have to use your hands to operate it, that is already illegal, so it’s best if you pull over to operate it first before you drive.
And that concludes your guide to Massachusetts distracted driving laws.
Distracted driving is one of the major causes of accidents and injuries on the road. Even if you’re just eating or getting something from your bag, the risk of not seeing a car or pedestrian approaching is too high.
So remember, if you have to take your hands off the wheel or eyes off the road, best to park first!
It’s always better to be safe than sorry.