BOSTON - Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick on July 2 signed legislation that bans text messaging for all Massachusetts drivers, prohibits younger drivers from using cell phones, and institutes new license renewal procedures for mature drivers, among other provisions.
"Without question, this new law will save lives on our roadways," Patrick said. "Texting is one of the riskiest distractions that endangers public safety and today we are joining other states by saying it will no longer be tolerated."
Under the new law which takes effect in October, any driver caught composing or reading a text message can be cited and fined $100. Operators of public transportation vehicles who violate the ban will be subject to a $500 fine. Law enforcement will have the authority to stop any driver suspected of texting. However, the offense will not be considered a moving violation and will not be subject to an insurance surcharge.
Drivers under 18 cited for using any type of cell phone or mobile electronic device with or without a hands-free feature will be subject to a $100 fine and a 60-day suspension of their driver's license. Offenders will also have to complete a driver attitudinal course before their license is reinstated. Massachusetts is the 29th state to ban dangerous driving behavior.
The MassDOT Registry of Motor Vehicles will also require drivers age 75 or older to renew their license in person at an RMV branch or office location and undergo a vision test every five years. The division will develop standards to help law enforcement, health care providers and families better assess a driver's ability to handle a vehicle safely.
Additionally, under the new law, drivers who accrue three or more incidents subject to a surcharge within a two-year period will be required to take a driver retraining and safety course or face the suspension of their license.
This driver-safety legislation was backed by such groups as AAA, Safe Roads Alliance, and members of the Safe Roads Now Coalition, along with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and other elder services advocates.
"Texting is the most dangerous form of distracted driving, and a ban on texting while driving will protect all motorists in the Commonwealth. We believe this new law is a powerful step in the right direction when it comes to public safety," said Mark Shaw, president and CEO of AAA Southern New England.