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Massachusetts' New Distracted Driver Law

On October 1, a new law goes into effect in Massachusetts that is hoped to reduce dangerous driving in the state.

The Safe Driver law bans texting while driving, and bans drivers under the age of 18 from operating a vehicle while using any electronic device, even with a “hands-free” device. Additionally, the law requires drivers over 75 years of age to renew their licenses in person at a Registry of Motor Vehicles office and take a vision test.

Texting while driving requires the driver to look away from the roadway, which even when done briefly may cost the driver valuable seconds in reacting to conditions in the roadway, such as a vehicle suddenly stopping in front of his/her car, or a child running into the roadway.

The further restrictions on younger drivers allows them to focus more on the road while they are still less experienced with handling the suddenly-changing conditions encountered while driving.

There are three main facets of distracted driving:

  • Taking your eyes off the road
  • Taking your hands off the steering wheel
  • Taking your attention off the work of driving

Any of these three could cause a delay in your reaction to an emergency in front of you; texting does all three. We’ve all been driving and have suddenly noticed someone running a red light, or a bicyclist dodging through traffic, and had to react quickly to avoid an accident. If your attention is not on the road, your chances of noticing and reacting to an unanticipated obstacle or person in the road in front of you decrease significantly. The University of Utah conducted a study that indicated that use of a cell phone while driving, even with a hands-free device, delayed a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol content of .08 percent.

In 2008, nearly 20% of crashes in the U.S. involved some type of distraction (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration). Many states in the country have similar laws, and students and employees traveling to Connecticut should know that that state bans use of cellular devices unless a handheld device is used. 

Safe Driving Practices:

  • Check and adjust all mirrors prior to taking your vehicle out of park
  • Turn down, and preferably turn off, the car stereo; set your radio station before you depart to avoid having to take attention from driving to adjust the station
  • Ask any passengers to limit conversation that can distract the driver
  • Turn off your cell phone to prevent it from distracting you with a call or a message
  • If you must use a cell phone during your travel, be sure to use a hands-free device (where they are still permitted by law) that allows you to initiate, make, and terminate calls without removing your hands from the steering wheel
  • Do not eat while driving; pull off the road in a safe location such as a rest area or restaurant to enjoy your meal
  • Do not drive long distances without taking frequent breaks; if you become tired, stop to rest or take turns with another driver
  • Do not drive if you have consumed alcohol or drugs within the past 12 hours, or if you are tired

IMPORTANT Information if you are Driving College Vehicles, or Driving on Behalf of the College:

If you drive a College vehicle or drive on behalf of the College, the College bans any use of handheld devices, even with a hands-free device. Read more at:
http://www.fivecolleges.edu/sites/riskmgmt/cellphones/

Resources

Press Release from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Governor’s Office >>


U.S. Department of Transportation Distracted Driving Website >>

 
 

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