What's Allowed Under The New Hands-Free Driving Law? We Drove Around With An Expert To Find Out

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Massachusetts drivers, take note: The state's new distracted driving law goes into effect Feb. 23.

The new rules severely restrict using hand-held devices like mobile phones behind the wheel. While a previous law barred texting, the new rules cover almost all actions on a device.

So what do you need to know to comply with the new law? WBUR's Bob Oakes took a drive with Jeff Larason, the director of the highway safety division in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, to find out.

Interview Highlights:

Can I Answer My Phone While Driving?

"My understanding is, and the way that we're looking at it is, you can touch the phone once. You have one touch to answer the call. But when you when you pick it up and if it's in your hand, that becomes illegal. ... If you pick it up and put it to your ear, that's where it becomes illegal."

What About GPS?

"If you're going to use GPS, set it before you start driving. If you try to set it during the drive, and you're manipulating your device or the screen, that's where you get to be illegal ... GPS is a great tool for drivers, but it has to be used in a way that is safe. And that means doing it when you're on the side of the road, in a safe spot, and not driving."

What If I Get Caught Using My Phone?

"Until April 1, you will be given a warning. Police may pull you over, but they're not going to give cash citations ... Then, on April Fools' Day, that's when the tickets start going out. The first citation (is) $100. The second citation is $250. And by the third citation, it's up to $500. And also, the second citation, you'll have to take a class, a distracted driving class, and every citation thereafter you'll have to take another class. And then on the third citation, that's when it ... hits your insurance."

Biggest Thing To Know?

"This is a big new law. And it's important that people need to prepare for what that means. And that means operating in a hands-free environment, and that requires learning how your Bluetooth works. And it requires getting a device that can mount on your dashboard. So a little work needs to be done to prepare for what's coming"

This segment aired on February 20, 2020.


Bob Oakes Senior Correspondent
Bob Oakes was a senior correspondent in the WBUR newsroom, a role he took on in 2021 after nearly three decades hosting WBUR's Morning Edition.


Walter Wuthmann General Assignment Reporter
Walter Wuthmann is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.



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