This month, Massachusetts becomes the 29th state to ban texting while driving. It is the most recent evidence of the aggressive war being waged on distracted driving by the nation's states.
Online PR News – 21-July-2010 – – This month, Massachusetts became the 29th state to ban texting while driving.
The new law, signed by Governor Deval Patrick, prohibits texting while driving for all drivers and bans any cell phone use for those under 18.
The new law takes effect in 90 days. The texting ban covers writing and reading e-mail, Internet searching and other non-calling activity on a phone, laptop or handheld electronic device by anyone operating a motor vehicle. It also applies to drivers waiting at traffic lights and stop signs. Texting and talking for those under 18 will be allowed only in an emergency or when a car is pulled over and parked.
The prohibited activities will be primary offenses, meaning police will not need an additional reason to stop a car and ticket the driver. Violations will result in a $100 fine.
Drivers under 18 will also have their licenses suspended for 60 days and be required to complete a course to change their behavior. The offenses will not be considered moving violations and will not result in insurance surcharges.
Distracted driving is becoming an increasing menace on the nation’s roadways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates at least 6,000 fatalities and 500,000 injuries result annually from distracted driving.
Harvard Center for Risk Analysis puts the annual cost in property damage, lost wages and medical bills for car accidents resulting from distracted driving at about $45 billion. And some experts say the total number may be higher because few drivers will admit talking on the phone after an accident, and – except in the case of a fatality -- phone records often aren’t subpoenaed.
To educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving, the new Massachusetts law also requires the Registry of Motor Vehicles to conduct a public awareness campaign.
Experts who have closely followed this issue support the initiative. “It's vital to send a clear message to all drivers that texting and cell calls are dangerous and can cause catastrophic car accidents,” says Jim Adler, a Houston car accident lawyer.
“Programs educating drivers about the potentially catastrophic dangers of distracted driving are vitally important as, outside of law enforcement, distracted driving has been an unrecognized epidemic. But once the message is received, to some extent the public must police itself, curb those calls and ‘hang up and drive,’ ” Adler says.
Founder of longtime Texas personal injury law firm Jim S. Adler & Associates, Adler is a Houston car accident attorney who supports Safe Kids, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other safe driving campaigns.
“Anyone harmed by a distracted driver -- or any driver – can obtain a free case review form on the Adler Web site to take the first step toward financial recovery,” Adler says.