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FAQ On TXT, RE: New Texting-While-Driving Ban

This article is more than 9 years old.

Starting Sept. 30, 2010, it's illegal to send or read text messages while driving in Massachusetts — even while stopped. Drivers caught texting or scanning the Internet on a cellphone could face a $100 fine for the first offense.

Q: Can an officer pull over and cite someone if he or she did not actually see the person texting?

Police officers have to "observe the actual violation" to pull you over, says Wayne Sampson,  retired police chief and director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. But since texting while driving can lead to other offenses, like weaving in between lanes or failing to stop at a red light, police officers can pull a driver over for another driving violation and, if they see that there is an open phone, that "may become an additional charge," Sampson says.

Q: Do police officers have the right to read the text messages on someone's phone?

No, that would require a search warrant, Sampson says.

Q: If I can't send text messages while driving, can I read them? And can I use my phone while driving to do other things, like surf the internet?

Basically, you cannot do anything on a cell phone while driving. Specifically, the law prohibits the following while driving: writing, sending or reading text messages, instant messages or accessing the Internet.

Drivers must keep at least one hand on the steering wheel at all times and cannot use any device that interferes with driving.

Q: What if I'm at a red light?

The law applies to drivers even when the vehicle stops at a red light, stop sign and when there's traffic.

Q: How does the Safe Driving Law affect drivers under the age of 18?

Drivers under age 18 cannot use a phone at all while driving.

Q: What is the fine for getting caught mulitple times for texting while driving?

Under the new Safe Driving Law, the penalties for texting while driving (for those age 18 and older) are:
• 1st offense-$35 assessment
• 2nd offense in 12 months-$75 assessment
• 3rd offense in 12 months-$150 assessment

Q: What about using a GPS device, or a mobile device that has a GPS?

Here's the exact language of the new law regarding use of navigation devices: "Mobile Device does not include any equipment permanently or temporarily installed to provide navigation, emergency assistance or rear seat video entertainment."

This program aired on September 30, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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