Articles/White Papers

The New Massachusetts Safe Driving Law is now in effect

Safe Driving Law Summary
The Safe Driving Law becomes effective in Massachusetts on September 30, 2010. The law creates a series of new violations, which the RMV Division, MassDOT IT staff and the Merit Rating Board are working to program and implement. These new violations include:

1. Ch 90/8M- Use of a Mobile Phone or Mobile Electronic Device by a Junior Operator – Civil Offense – No Surcharge (Mobile electronic device includes mobile telephone, text messaging device, paging device, PDA, laptop computer, electronic equipment capable of playing video games or video disks or can take/transmit digital photographs or can receive a television broadcast. Mobile electronic device does not include any equipment permanently or temporarily installed to provide navigation, emergency assistance or rear seat video entertainment. Reporting an emergency is the only exception. Drivers are encouraged to pull over and stop the vehicle to report the emergency.)

  • 1st offense—$100 fine, 60 day license suspension & attitudinal course
  • 2nd offense—$250, 180 day suspension
  • 3rd or subsequent offense—$500, 1 year suspension

2. Use of a Mobile Phone by a Public Transport Motor Vehicle – Operator – Civil Offense – No insurance surcharge

  • $500 assessment each offense

3. Use of a Mobile Phone by a Public Transport Non-Motor Vehicle – Operator Civil Offense-No insurance surcharge (MBTA Trolley)

  • $500 assessment each violation

4. Improper Use of a Mobile Phone by Operators 18 and Over – Civil Offense – No insurance surcharge – (One hand must be on the steering wheel at all times and no use of device can interfere with driving)

  • 1st offense—$35 assessment
  • 2nd offense in 12 months—$75 assessment
  • 3rd offense in 12 months—$150 assessment

5. Sending/Reading Text Messages – Civil Offense – No insurance surcharge

(Operators cannot use any mobile telephone or handheld device capable of accessing the Internet to write, send, or read an electronic message including text messages, emails, and instant messages or to access the Internet while operating a vehicle. Law applies even if the vehicle is stopped in traffic.)

  • 1st offense—$100
  • 2nd offense—$250
  • 3rd or subs offense—$500

6. Negligent Operation & Injury from Mobile Phone Use – Criminal Offense – Insurance surcharge

JOL Suspensions

  • 1st offense—180-day suspension
  • 2nd or subsequent offense within 3 years—1 year suspension
  • $500 reinstatement fee

Over-18 suspensions

  • 1st offense—60-day suspension
  • 2nd or subsequent offense within 3 years—1 year suspension
  • $500 reinstatement fee

Notes:

This criminal offense/surcharge applies only to injury or property damage done as a result of the following types of incidents:

  • Use of any type of mobile phone or mobile electronic device by a junior operator;
  • Use of any type of mobile phone or mobile electronic device by an operator of any type of public transportation; or
  • Use of any type of mobile phone or any handheld device capable of access the internet to manually compose, send or read an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle.

The new law specifically defines these devices as follows:

“Electronic message”, a piece of digital communication that is designed or intended to be transmitted between a mobile electronic device and any other electronic device; provided, however, that electronic message shall include, but not be limited to, electronic mail, electronic message, a text message, an instant message, a command or request to access an internet site, or any message that includes a keystroke entry sent between mobile devices.

“Hands-free mobile telephone”, a hand-held mobile telephone that has an internal feature or function, or that is equipped with a hands-free accessory, whether or not permanently part of such hand-held mobile telephone, by which a user engages in a call without the use of either hand, whether or not the use of either hand is necessary to activate, deactivate or initiate a telephone call.

“Mobile electronic device”, any hand-held or other portable electronic equipment capable of providing data communication between 2 or more persons, including, without limitation, a mobile telephone, a text messaging device, a paging device, a personal digital assistant, a laptop computer, electronic equipment that is capable of playing a video game or digital video disk, equipment on which digital photographs are taken or transmitted or any combination thereof, or equipment that is capable of visually receiving a television broadcast; provided, however, that mobile electronic device shall not include any audio equipment or any equipment installed, or affixed, either temporarily or permanently, in a motor vehicle for the purpose of providing navigation or emergency assistance to the operator of such motor vehicle or video entertainment to the passengers in the rear seats of such motor vehicle.

“Mobile telephone”, a handheld or portable cellular, analog, wireless, satellite or digital telephone, including a telephone with 2-way radio functionality, capable of sending or receiving telephone communications and with which a user initiates, terminates or engages in a call using at least 1 hand.

For the purposes of this chapter, “mobile telephone” shall not include amateur radios operated by those licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to operate such radios, or citizen band radios.

Additional Suspensions
The law repeals the current suspension for 5-surchargeable incidents in a 3-year period and replaces it with a new suspension for 3 surchargeable incidents in 2 years. Violations with an incident date on or after 9/30/2010 can be factored into the new suspension calculation. However, older violations will still be considered a basis for operators that accrue 7 surchargeable incidents. Similar to the current suspension process for 5 surchargeable incidents, operators will have 90 days from the suspension notice to complete a National Safety Council course to avoid going into suspension.

EXAMPLE: An operator receives a citation on October 1, 2010 and is cited for 3 offenses on the ticket: speeding, failure to yield, and a marked lane violation. Under the new law, this driver will receive a notice that they must complete the NSC course in 90 days or have his/her license suspended until completion of the class.

Elder Driving Provisions
License applicants, either for initial licensure in Massachusetts or license renewal, age 75 and older must conduct the transaction in a RMV office. Use of the Internet for license renewals will no longer be allowed for these applicants. All applicants, regardless of age, that obtain or renew a license in a branch office are required to undergo the RMV vision test that is given to all drivers or provide a vision screening certificate from an appropriate health care provider to complete the transaction.

Medical Fitness Reporting
Health care providers and law enforcement may report operators they believe are not physically or mentally capable of safely operating a vehicle due to cognitive of functional impairment

  • May request RMV to seek medical evaluation of operator
  • Requests can’t be based on operator age or solely on diagnosis of condition or impairment-it must be based on the effect either has on the ability to drive safely
  • Good faith belief of impairment based on-
    • Personal observation
    • Physical evidence
    • Law enforcement investigation
  • RMV must review report within 30 days of receipt

The RMV must promulgate regulations based on recommendations from the RMV Medical Advisory Board designating cognitive or functional impairments likely to affect an individual’s ability to operate.