MCDHH Summary of Hands-Free Law HB 4203
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MCDHH Summary of Hands-Free Law HB 4203


MCDHH: Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf
and Hard of Hearing MCDHH Summary of Hands-Free Law: HB 4203
Josh Mendelsohn, Deputy General Counsel, MCDHH Edgar Herrera, Business Manager, MCDHH
Background description: City traffic moving near Boston Common. Josh and Edgar walk toward the camera. Indistinct conversation as they reach
the crosswalk, then they stop and turn toward each other. Edgar: Well, I need to get going! I’m in a rush to get home but I’ll FaceTime
you from my car to talk about this work project, ok? Josh: Oh, wait! Did you know that Governor Baker recently
signed a new bill? It’s House Bill 4203 and he signed it last
fall. The Act requires handsfree
use of mobile devices while driving. Did you know about this new law? Edgar: Really? No! But what has that got to do with me? Josh: Oh, I’d be happy to explain what it
means. Under the new law, drivers
of a motor vehicle cannot use their electronic device, like a cell phone,
while they are driving unless it is in hands-free mode. With the phone in
hands-free mode the driver can only use it for verbal communication or for
listening to audio input without touching or holding the device. Edgar: Oh! Ok. Well…I sign with my phone mounted and don’t
touch the screen Is that still ok? Josh: I see what you mean. But no: the law says that drivers are allowed
to perform a single tap or swipe only to activate
or deactivate hands-free mode. Additionally, drivers cannot read text or
view pictures or video while they’re driving. It is not permissible. However, there is one exception, and
that is for drivers to be able to view a map through their navigation system
or through an app. That is the one exception. However, the device must be
mounted on the dashboard, or in the center console, or affixed to the
windshield. Wherever it’s mounted, it must not block
the driver’s view or interfere with the operation of the vehicle. Viewing maps through the
navigation system is the only exception. Edgar: Wait a minute! Hang on. Suppose traffic is really slow or I’m stopped
at a red light? Can I go ahead and have a conversation then? That
shouldn’t be a problem, right? Josh: Well, unfortunately the law states that
drivers must stop and they must also pull over. They cannot be in active lanes of travel. It means that
you cannot touch your phone even while stopped at a red light or stuck in
heavy traffic. Even if you feel you can use your phone discreetly,
it is still not permissible. Drivers must pull over and stop their vehicles, out of active lanes of travel. Edgar: Oh, I see. I’m really concerned about the requirements
under this law. Suppose I’m in an emergency situation? What should I do? Josh: If you’re in an emergency situation,
the law states that drivers can present evidence in their defense that their
use of an electronic device was in response to an emergency. There are four types of situations when
phone use is allowed: if your car breaks down; if you need medical
attention you are allowed to call for help; also, if you witness a situation that
requires police or emergency response you are allowed to call for help; or if
there is something blocking the road like a fallen tree or motor vehicle
accident. Those situations are when it is permissible
to use your phone. Edgar: Now, suppose I’m caught using my
device by the police; what are the consequences? Josh: That’s a good question. The punishment for the first offense is a
$100 fine. For a second offense, the fine is $250. For the third or any subsequent
violation, the fine is $500 each time. A third or subsequent offense is
considered a surchargeable incident. This means that it will be reported to
your insurance company and the cost of your policy may increase. Operators who commit more than two offenses
will be required to complete an educational program geared to prevent distracted
driving. Edgar: Really? Whoa! When does this law take effect? Josh: Very soon.It takes effect on February 23, 2020. There will be a short
grace period during which violators will receive warnings from February 23-
March 31, 2020. This grace period applies to first-time offenders
only. Anyone caught violating the law after March
31st will be fined accordingly. Edgar: I’m assuming that this applies to
all drivers? Josh: Yes, all drivers, with the understanding
that there is already a strict law that specifically applies to minor drivers
under the age of 18. They are
prohibited from using any electronic device, even if it is in hands-free mode. Additionally, public safety officials and
first responders are exempt from the law, as long as the use of the device is required
to perform their work duties. In those instances, first responders are allowed
to use their devices in their vehicles. Edgar: Wow, thanks for all the helpful information.I see. I’ll FaceTime you
to talk about our work project after I get home. Have a good day! Josh: Absolutely. Talk with you later after you get home. Resources:
House Bill 4203: “An Act Requiring the Hands-Free Use of Mobile
Telephones While Driving” https://malegislature.gov/Bills/191/H4203 Governor’s Press Release: https://www.mass.gov/news/governor-bakersigns-
legislation-requiring-hands-free-use-of-electronic-devices-whiledriving The statements made in this vlog are for educational
purposes and are not intended as legal advice.

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