Distracted Driving Laws Are Saving Teen Lives, Research Says

Massachusetts teen driver using cell phone, causing risk for distracted driving crash.
Massachusetts teen driver using cell phone, causing risk for distracted driving crash.

Distracted driving laws are reducing teen driver crashes, study says.

When drivers use cell phones, they introduce grave dangers to the road and are more likely to crash. This is why many states have now passed distracted driving laws. But how effective have these laws been?

Highly effective, suggests new research. Distracted driving laws are saving the lives of both teen drivers and their passengers in car crashes. The greatest impact is seen when states ban all drivers from cell phone use, not just junior operators under age 18.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital published the findings from a 10-year study in Pediatrics journal. Reviewing more than 38,000 motor vehicle crashes reported between 2007 and 2017, researchers found a significant decrease in fatal motor vehicle crashes among drivers age 16-19.

There was actually a 43 percent reduction in deaths among 16-year-old drivers in states which passed hand held cell phone bans for all drivers (not just a ban for junior operators under 18).

Researchers had the challenge of working with evolving cell phone laws. When the study began in 2007, just 15 states had passed one type of distracted driving law, often a texting while driving ban. By the end, researchers were reviewing the impact of multiple bans, including texting while driving bans (both primary and secondary), hand-held bans and bans on all types of cell phone use for drivers under age 18.

Distracted Driving In Massachusetts

Massachusetts distracted driving crashes are a serious concern, having caused the deaths of drivers as well as pedestrians and cyclists. Once drivers pick up a cell phone, it is hard to break their attention away. The younger the driver, the harder it can be and this makes it essential for teens to establish good habits from the start.

In Massachusetts, a high school student was the first to be criminally prosecuted for motor vehicle homicide, texting while driving and negligent operation of a motor vehicle, according to CNN. Police allege the 17-year-old Haverhill man exchanged nearly 200 text messages in the hours leading up to the fatal crash in 2011. The crash killed a 55-year-old New Hampshire driver and seriously injured his girlfriend, who was riding in his passenger seat. As the prosecutor said at sentencing, “there are no winners today.” He went onto say, “…in a split second, many lives are forever changed.”

The state of Massachusetts reported a 170 percent increase in distracted driving crashes between 2014 and 2016. Over the past few years, lawmakers and safety advocates negotiated proposals to pass a hands-free law or a ban on handheld cell phone use. This finally reached resolution in November 2019, taking effect in April.

Under the Massachusetts Hands-Free Law, drivers are no longer allowed to use hand-held cell phones. They must now use voice-activated technology. The goal is to reduce injuries by taking away the act of reaching for a phone and attempting to dial. However drivers must still use voice-activated cell phones cautiously. Drivers can still cause accidents when using voice-activated technology and can still be held liable if they cause someone’s injuries.

Teen drivers – Massachusetts junior operators under age 18 – are still not allowed to use hands-free cell phones under the new law.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Car Accident Attorneys

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our attorneys fight for the rights of those injured by negligent driving in Boston and across Massachusetts. With more than 100 years combined experience, we have a reputation for strong results for victims of car accidents, truck crashes and bus collisions.

If you have been injured, call our attorneys for a free legal consultation: 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

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Distracted Driving Accidents Have Seriously Injured Cyclists in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Florida

Damaged bike and helmet after a bicycle crash in Boston
Damaged bike and helmet after a bicycle crash in Boston

Over the past year, distracted driving accidents have seriously injured cyclists in Massachusetts and other states.

During the past few months, you may have noticed more bicyclists and fewer cars out. Massachusetts bike shops have confirmed that sales are way up since the COVID-19 emergency began. And during an uncertain time, it has been nice to see people enjoy bikes.

But now, as Massachusetts slowly re-opens the economy, driving patterns are changing again. More cyclists are out, but increasingly, so are cars. Coincidentally, traffic laws have also changed. As of April 1st, the Massachusetts hands-free driving law took effect, banning all hand-held cell phone use. Going forward, drivers must connect to voice-activated technology.

This is an important new law for cyclists, who often travel to the immediate right of a vehicle in the bike lane or roadside. When a driver doesn’t pick up a phone, this takes away an unexpected movement, a layer of danger to cyclists.

But several other layers remain. The reality is many drivers do not even realize cyclists are nearby. But cyclists are close and are vulnerable to your quick, unpredictable movements, such as when you pick up a cell phone, reach into your glove compartment or open a fast-food bag as you drive. Or when you tend to your children or other passengers.  

If you are a Massachusetts driver, now is the time to set up your vehicle for hands-free cell phone use. Commit to follow the new law and drive safely.  

Also commit to check for cyclists. When you stop at a traffic light or stop sign, check in front of you, to each side and behind you. Bicycle accidents often happen because cyclists are approaching from behind cars. Many drivers neglect to look there. Drivers are less likely to look if they are focused on their cell phone or texting while driving

Many communities are expanding sidewalks or changing traffic patterns to make room for social distance. This means you may encounter cyclists in new areas. Approach slowly, with caution and patience.

Recent Cases: Distracted Driving Accidents and Injuries to Cyclists

Over the past year, there have been several news stories about distracted driving, leading to cyclist injuries and deaths. Even as states such as Massachusetts and Maine have strengthened laws, the number of distracted accidents continues to rise. 

Ipswich Texting While Driving Crash Kills Cyclist

On March 26th, just days after the Massachusetts stay at home advisory took effect, there was a tragic crash on an Ipswich Road. According to the The Boston Globe, a 43-year-old driver fatally struck a cyclist in the North Shore community, also injuring two other family members on bikes. Ipswich Police and the Essex County District Attorney’s office announced the driver has been cited for motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, marked lanes violation and composing, sending and reading an electronic message. A clerk magistrate will decide whether a criminal complaint will be issued.

Pennsylvania Driver Accused of Texting in Cyclist’s Death

In April 2019, a Pennsylvania woman was accused of texting while driving. Penn Live, a local news website, reported she struck a male cyclist in Mount Joy Township. Forensic analysis determined she had sent a text message a minute before the crash. She received a message, then tried to call 911, as a neighbor also called in. 

The cyclist died from multiple traumas nine days later. In this case, the driver was charged with felony homicide by vehicle, misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter, and cited with traffic citations in the crash, according to Penn Live.

Florida Distracted Driving Case Ends in Fine, Community Service

In January 2020, a Florida woman pleaded no contest in a fatal crash which killed two cyclists and seriously injured several others. In November 2018, the woman had struck the group of 14 cyclists with her vehicle. They were members of a local bicycle club riding in Davie, a community in Broward County.

According to the Sun Sentinel newspaper, the woman admitted to reaching into her glove compartment for her cigarettes. She also said she was temporarily blinded by sun glare. Police allege the woman was also traveling 70 mph on a 55 mph road when she struck the cyclists. This was a horrific crash and many involved were deeply upset with the outcome. In this case, local prosecutors maintained the woman’s actions did not warrant a criminal charge of motor vehicle homicide, according to the Sun Sentinel. So the driver pleaded no contest to careless driving, leaving court with orders to pay a $1,000 fine and complete 120 days of community service. She also lost her driver’s license for six months.

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Boston Bicycle Accident Lawyers – Distracted Driving Injuries to Cyclists

At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our Boston bicycle accident attorneys have more than 100 years combined experience. We represent cyclists and others who have been injured by distracted driving, including a driver’s negligent use of a cell phone.

Distracted driving accidents can seriously injure cyclists. We urge you to act right away if you suspect a driver’s cell phone use may have caused your injuries. If you or a loved one was injured, it is important to consult an experienced lawyer to learn your rights. You may be entitled to pursue financial compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other financial losses. 

For a free legal consultation, contact Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.

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State of Massachusetts Releases Education Materials on New Hands-Free Driving Law

Woman talking on cell phone in car
Woman talking on cell phone in car

Hand-held cell phone use becomes illegal in Massachusetts on Feb. 23, 2020, when the new hands-free law takes effect.

The state of Massachusetts has published a new web page and pamphlet on the new hands-free driving law, which takes effect on Feb. 23rd.

While Massachusetts passed a texting while driving ban in 2010, it was the final New England state to enact hands-free legislation in November. When the new law at last takes effect, drivers will be prohibited from using cell phones and electronic devices, unless they are in hands-free mode or they have to call 911 for an emergency.

Distracting driving is a serious safety threat on the roads, causing 9 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries each day in U.S. traffic crashes, according to the CDC. This goes beyond just cell phone use. Think of it as any activity which takes your eyes off the road, your mind off the road or your hands off the wheel.

Texting while driving and cell phone use cause many injuries each year. If the news stories have not deterred you, the new Massachusetts hands-free law should; it is about to become much easier for police to identify drivers who are using cell phones illegally.

Penalties for violating the Massachusetts hands-free law:

For a driver’s first offense, there is a $100 fine. The second offense carries a $250 fine and drivers must complete a distracted driving education program. Third and subsequent offenses can lead to a $500 fine and drivers will have to attend the education program. At this point, drivers can also face an insurance surcharge.

What becomes illegal under the Massachusetts hands-free law:

No Holding Your Cell Phone. Cell phones must be mounted or installed in your vehicle before you use hands-free technology or voice-to-text communication. Drivers can only touch their cell phones to make an initial swipe to activate hands-free mode.

No Touching Your Cell Phone Screen. Drivers cannot touch cell phones to email, check social media or watch video. All other Internet use and app use is also banned.

Get Your GPS Ready. GPS is a critical tool for many drivers. Going forward, be aware that you can only activate your GPS from an electronic device which is installed in your vehicle or properly mounted on the dashboard.

No Cell Phone Use at Red Lights. You can only pick up your cell phone if your car is stationary and safely outside the travel lane. Hand-held cell phone use at stop signs and red lights is a violation. Along with drivers, cyclists are also banned from using hand-held electronic devices.

Visit the state of Massachusetts web page to learn more.

Our Final Note

Massachusetts drivers must continue to use caution under the new hands-free law. Even if you follow the law, hands-free doesn’t mean distraction- or accident-free.

Free Legal Consultation – Boston Personal Injury Lawyers

Breakstone, White & Gluck is a Boston personal injury law firm with extensive experience handling Massachusetts car accident claims for those injured by negligent driving. If you have been injured, our attorneys are here to advise you of your rights to file a claim against the driver or another party who may be at fault. For a free legal consultation, call Breakstone, White & Gluck at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676. You can also use our contact form.

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Study Says Americans Are Checking Smart Phones Every 12 Minutes

Woman talking on cell phone in car
Woman talking on cell phone in car

Americans are checking their cell phones every 12 minutes, according to new research. This means more distraction, including in the car.

As we wait out this snowstorm, you may be checking your smart phone more than usual. This is understandable. But how often do you check on an average weekday? One report shows Americans are checking their smart phones every 12 minutes or 80 times a day. And between Facebook, Twitter and e-mail, we all know someone who may check even more often.

Use your smart phones as often as you want – except in the car. Please consider these thoughts as you wait out the snow:

Can I receive a ticket for using my cell phone in the car in Massachusetts?
In 15 states, drivers are banned from all cell phone use in the car. In Massachusetts and 46 other states, drivers are banned from texting while driving. Massachusetts has banned texting while driving since September 30, 2010, when the Safe Driving Law took effect. However, talking on a handheld cell phone is legal in Massachusetts, even though any cell phone use can be distracting and cause a car accident.

Drivers can receive a ticket if they are stopped for texting while driving. The ticket comes with a fine of $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second offense and $500 for a third or subsequent offense. Junior operators – drivers who are 16 1/2 to 18 years old – are not allowed to use cell phones at all and face more severe penalties, starting with a 60-day license suspension, a $100 fine and attitudinal retraining for the first offense.

For the second offense, teens can lose their license for 180 days and have to pay a $250 fine. For the 3rd of subsequent offense, they lose their license for a year and have to pay a $500 fine.

How often are people using smart phones?
Very often. Asurion, a global tech company, reported on smart phone user habits last November. The company surveyed 2,000 users and found they reached for their phones on average every 12 minutes or 80 times a day. One in 10 people checked their phone every four minutes. In addition, 31 percent of survey participants had separation anxiety when away from their phones. The longest any participant was prepared to go without their phone? Four hours (that one sounds fairly reasonable to us, if you are not driving).

Participants also prioritized their smart phone over sweets. Some 62 percent said they would rather lose chocolate for a week than their cell phone for a day.

How often are people using cell phones in the car?
Zendrive, a driving analytics company, conducted a three-month analysis of three million drivers. The company reported drivers used cell phones on 88 percent of the trips analyzed. On average, drivers spend 3.5 minutes on the phone per one hour trip.

How can I stop my teenager from texting while driving?
Your teenagers may use their cell phones more often than anyone else in your house. You may want to encourage your teenager to take breaks from their smart phone so it doesn’t have such a strong hold.

You can also make your teen earn their driving privileges. Gradually build up to allowing them to drive with friends or go further than school so they understand that it is a responsibility. You can also explain the law. In Massachusetts, junior operators – drivers between 16 ½ and 18 years old – face harsher penalties for cell phone use and texting. As we mentioned above, they can lose their license on the first offense.

Then, you can share safety resources and tell them you want to save them from the life-changing experience of injuring someone or causing themselves harm. AT&T has its It Can Wait campaign, which shows stories from drivers who made the mistake and the victims who suffered the very serious consequences.

Finally, you can set a good example for your teenager. Always put your cell phone in your bag in the backseat when you are driving with them.

The good news about cell phones is you can turn them off and everyone in your family will be safer. Here are a few tips for when you step back outside after the storm:

  • Turn your cell phone off while driving.
  • Limit use of Bluetooth devices and infotainment systems. They are legal, but they can still be distracting.
  • Take a few apps off your cell phone so you have fewer reasons to reach for your phone.
  • If you play games on your cell phone, consider installing them on a different device if you have one. Play them at home.
  • Do not be a distracted passenger. Make light conversation or carry a magazine if you are traveling far.
  • Ask your family members to put the phone away too.
  • Map out your directions before you get in the car. If you are busy, ask your teenager to help you.
  • If you must check your cell phone, pull over in a safe place to check your phone. Choose a place where you can safely park and turn off your engine.
  • Do not reach for your cell phone or glance at it at traffic lights or intersections.
  • Finally, choose your times to engage in social media. Do not actively engage before you start commuting home. Instead, come up with a time each day (or a few times a day) when you can safely respond or chat with social media friends or check e-mail.

About Breakstone, White & Gluck
The Boston car accident lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck have over 100 years combined experience representing those who have been injured in motor vehicle crashes in Massachusetts. If you have been injured, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact our attorneys at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

Distracted Driving Study: One in Four Drivers Are Using Cell Phones Before Crashes

Here is another reason for Massachusetts and other states to consider passing laws which ban handheld cell phone use by drivers. A new study reports one in four drivers who crashed was using a cell phone within the previous minute. Cambridge Mobile Telematics released the study last week to coincide with April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Our country needs a reminder this year. Motor vehicle accident deaths are on the rise, as the National Safety Council reported nearly 40,000 deaths in traffic crashes last year. In fact, the period from 2014 to 2016 saw the largest two-year increase in more than 50 years.

Meanwhile, this year has already seen hundreds of deaths across the U.S. Just last month came a horrific accident in Texas. A driver in Uvalde County, who was texting while driving his pick-up truck, crashed into a church bus, killing 13 people. Texas is one of 5 states which do not ban texting while driving.

New Distracted Driving
Over the past 18 months, Massachusetts-based Cambridge Mobile Telematics tracked about 1,000 car accidents via its smartphone app called DriveWell. Some insurance companies offered customers the app and provided incentives for safe driving.

The app uses a smart phone’s sensors to track driver behaviors, such as the way a phone is held. Drivers in stopped vehicles were not counted. The app tracks distracted driving behaviors at speeds greater than 9 miles per hour. Some 29 percent of the distracted drivers were traveling much faster though, over 56 mph.

Massachusetts is one of 45 states which bans the practice of texting while driving. The state’s ban has been in place since September 2010.

Drivers can still make phone calls, except for junior operators who are under age 18 and bus drivers. Though the Massachusetts state Senate did approve a handheld cell phone ban in 2016, the bill never cleared the state House of Representatives.

Allowing drivers to make handheld cell phone calls is a safety hazard and makes it hard for police to enforce the state’s texting while driving ban. Many argue police cannot differentiate between a driver picking up their phone to make a call or reaching for it to check their e-mail or text messages.

But the DriveWell study gives the state of Massachusetts another reason to consider a cell phone ban. Some 14 states already have these bans, including New Hampshire.

Reducing the Distractions in Your Car
Most people think of distracted driving as cell phone use, texting and checking your Facebook accounts. But the distractions run deeper. Distracted driving is really any behavior that takes your attention off the road, including eating, drinking or being engaged in conversations with passengers that take your attention off the road. Think about your own driving routine. How can you reduce the distractions?

About Breakstone, White & Gluck
The Boston car accident lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck have over 100 years combined experience representing those who have been injured in car accidents, truck accidents and motorcycle accidents. If you have been injured, learn your rights for seeking compensation. For a free legal consultation, contact our attorneys at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

Will Massachusetts Pass a Handheld Cell Phone Ban for Drivers?

Driving talking on a cell phone in car

As attorneys, we have represented hundreds of victims of motor vehicle crashes over the past three decades. In recent years, we have seen texting while driving and cell phone use by drivers multiply at an alarming rate, causing a stunning number of injuries and deaths. These injuries are preventable, but each year, drivers continue to reach for their phones and the toll rises.

According to the US Department of Transportation, cell phones are now involved in 1.6 million auto crashes each year, injuring 500,000 people and causing 6,000 deaths. While many states have already passed legislation to reduce distracted driving accidents, some are now considering additional measures, including Massachusetts.

Massachusetts lawmakers passed the Safe Driving Law in 2010, which banned texting while driving. There was no further action until January 2016, when the Massachusetts state Senate passed a bill banning handheld cell phone use. The ban would have allowed drivers to use hands free technology to dial and talk. According to the State House News Service, the Massachusetts House of Representatives gave initial approval to a similar bill but the legislation stalled.

With Governor’s Comments, Handheld Cell Phone Debate Returns to the News

Massachusetts State HouseThere was no update for several months. Then Governor Charlie Baker spoke in February, indicating he may not support a handheld ban.

“I don’t want to get out of the business of making it possible for people to talk to other people when they’re driving. Because I think the texting thing is a big problem. I’m not sure I believe that the talking thing is,” Baker said during his “Ask the Governor” segment on WGBH Thursday. His comments were published by the State House News Service.

When the show’s co-host noted that drivers could use hands-free Bluetooth devices, Baker said:

“So now we’re just going to let people who can afford to put a Bluetooth in their new car to have the ability to talk when they’re in a car?” Baker responded. “But we’re not going to let anybody else? Hmm. Let me think about that one a little.”

Following the interview, The Boston Herald called on state lawmakers to resume their work to ban handheld cell phones: “Drivers in Massachusetts have proven that when it comes to using their phones behind the wheel they’re incapable of regulating themselves.”

When texting while driving was banned in 2010, texting was the major concern for distracted driving, the Herald wrote. Today, more people have smartphones which offer quick access to social media and other apps.

How Widespread is Texting While Driving in Massachusetts?
Critics say enforcement for Massachusetts’ texting while driving ban is challenging when drivers can hold their phones to talk, but not for other purposes. Police have worked through some of these issues. According to a Boston Globe analysis, Massachusetts police officers wrote 6,131 tickets in 2015, compared to 1,153 in 2011, the first year of the ban. Overall, between late 2010 and mid-April of 2016 when the analysis was published, 18,383 tickets were issued for texting while driving in Massachusetts.

Drivers under 40 years old received the most tickets and many drivers got caught during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, when many local police departments receive safety grants for enforcement.

Where Proposed Legislation Now Stands in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is one of 46 states which have texting while driving laws. Just 14 states also ban handheld cell phone use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut are among the early adopters.

Expect to hear more debate about a handheld cell phone ban in Massachusetts at some point in the future. While Governor Baker has voiced reservations, when the 2017-2018 legislative session began in January, the Massachusetts House of Representatives referred legislation for hands-free cell phone devices to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation.

Where to Find Distracted Driving Safety Campaigns and Information 

No Cell Phone in Car Pledge

Safety campaigns are critical to preventing distracted driving accidents. There are many out there, offering programs for schools and information online.  One effort is from the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys (MATA), which brings its “End Distracted Driving” program to high schools. We support this campaign. Two of our partners, Marc L. Breakstone and Ronald E. Gluck, serve on the MATA Board of Governors. Partner David W. White is a long-time member.

Another effort comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which offers this pledge which family members can sign to promise each other they will not use a cell phone while driving.


Distracted Driving Prevention and Safety Campaigns:

Distraction.gov: Official U.S. website for distracted driving.

It Can Wait!: AT&T’s documentary to stop distracted driving.

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Back to School is Time for a Family Talk About Texting While Driving and Distracted Driving

As students head back to classes, this is a good time for families to talk about cell phones and distracted driving.


Each day, nine people are killed in the U.S. in crashes involving distracted driving behaviors, such as using a cell phone, texting while driving or eating. More than 1,100 are injured.

There are now 46 states which ban texting while driving, including Massachusetts, which banned the practice in 2010. Junior operators are not allowed to use cell phones at all in Massachusetts.

For Parents

No Cell Phone Rule. Lead by example. Put your cell phone away while driving your children to school. Tell them to put theirs away too because it creates a distraction for you on the roads. Make this a rule for school drop-offs and pick-ups. If you can, extend it to other travel times.

Drop-Off Zone. After you drop your child off at school, resist the urge to immediately check your cell phone in the drop-off zone. Drive away and check later.

Children and Teens

No Cell Phone Use While Commuting. Keep telling your children the cell phone is not for use while commuting to school. Even if they are young and many years away from driving, they can learn now how distracting any cell phone use can be in the car.

Children should not use cell phones while walking or riding bikes to school, either. They can check in with social media, e-mail and text messages at home. If they must, tell them to step several feet off the sidewalk. Make it clear it is not safe to stop in a parking lot.

School Bus. Encourage your child to keep their cell phone packed on the ride so they can be aware of what is going on around them.

Reward Your Child For Not Using a Cell Phone. When your children do as you ask and leave the cell phone packed up, let them know you noticed.

Teen Drivers

Talk to Your Teen Drivers. Take some time to remind them not to use their cell phone behind the wheel. They could seriously injure someone or be stopped by police and face fines and a temporary loss of license.

No Passengers. Do not allow them to carry other teenage passengers with them until they become experienced drivers, and even then they should limit the number of passengers in their cars. Your teenager needs all their energy to focus on the roads and avoid car accidents.

Your teenager may not be happy with your rules, but younger drivers under 25 are two to three times more likely to text or e-mail while driving than others, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. You want to protect your teenager and help them develop safe habits.

Share Safety Materials. Do not be your teen’s only source of information. Occasionally share safety campaign information or news articles about texting while driving with them. One resource is the AT&T It Can Wait campaign.
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Distracted Driving Lessons in Massachusetts

20141006-texting.jpgThis month, students at four high schools in Massachusetts will sit down at computer simulators and learn what it feels like to text or use a cell phone while driving and then crash.

This is part of Arbella Insurance Foundation’s Distractology 101 program, which will visit Braintree High School, Phillips Academy in Andover, Falmouth High School and Sacred Heart High School in Kingston. Although the young drivers will not actually suffer or cause injury, or feel the remorse of having caused the collision, they will be taught the lesson that distracted driving behaviors, such as cell phone use, using a GPS and even eating and drinking, can result in car accidents and serious injuries. These behaviors should be considered as or more dangerous than speeding or running a red light.

Consider these statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

  • 10 percent of all fatal crashes in 2011 were reported as distraction-affected crashes (3,331 people killed).
  • Among those who were killed, 12 percent died in a car crash which involved cell phone use.
  • Some 17 percent of all injury crashes in 2011 were reported as distracted-affected crashes (or 387,000 people injured).
  • Among those who were injured, 5 percent were injured in a car accident which involved cell phone use.

Laws have been implemented to reduce the dangers caused by distracted driving. While no state bans all drivers from all cell phone use, hand-held cell phone use is not permitted in 15 states, including Vermont as of Oct. 1.

Laws related to texting while driving are much more prevalent. Texting while driving is now against the law in 44 states. Washington passed the first ban in 2007. Massachusetts implemented its law four years ago. The law, St. 2010, c. 155, bans texting by drivers, including reading, writing or sending messages. Drivers cannot text while driving or sitting at red lights, intersections or other public ways. This is a primary offense, meaning police can pull drivers over when they suspect the behavior, even without any other cause.

Despite these laws, drivers here and in other states still text and check their social media accounts. Younger drivers under 25 are two to three times more likely to text or e-mail while driving than others, according to the NHTSA. But these violations are not limited to young drivers, as the evidence is that older drivers are also engaging in this prohibited behavior.

Fortunately there is some evidence that these laws are starting to work. Recently The Journal of American Health reported that traffic fatalities had dropped 3 percent in states which have primary enforcement laws like Massachusetts. States that ban younger drivers from texting while driving saw an 11 percent drop. The journal studied national traffic data over 11 years.

States may continue to pass laws to reduce distracted driving, but drivers carry responsibility for putting down the phone and becoming aware of other distracting behaviors, such as eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading maps, using a GPS, watching a video or adjusting a radio or music player.

There are some good safety resources out there to help families understand the problem and the attitudes and behaviors that contribute to it. We encourage you to take a look and share them with your colleagues at work and with your family, friends, and children.

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About Breakstone, White & Gluck
The Boston motor vehicle accident lawyers at Breakstone, White & Gluck have over 100 years combined experience representing clients seriously injured in car accidents. If you have been injured, it is important to learn your rights. For a free legal consultation, contact us at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.

Drivers Age 25-39 Admit to Most Texting While Driving

cellphone-car-300.jpgOne in four drivers admitted to texting while driving in the past month, a new AAA survey reports. While teenagers often get the most blame, this survey found drivers age 25-39 are actually the worst offenders.

Texting while driving is against the law in Massachusetts and 40 other states. But in the new survey, 26 percent of drivers reported sending a text or e-mail while driving in the past month. Among drivers age 25-39, 45 percent admitted to texting or sending an e-mail while driving and 10 percent admitted they did so fairly often.

These drivers were also most likely to drive while talking on a handheld cell phone, with 82 percent admitting to doing so in the past month and 43 percent saying they did it fairly often. Talking on a cell phone while driving is still legal in many states, including Massachusetts, but legislation is pending to restrict that activity.

Drivers 19-24 were second most likely to text while driving, with 42 percent confessing to it at least once in the previous month and 11 percent saying they did it fairly often.

Drivers age 16-18 were third most likely, followed by drivers ages 40-59, then 60 and older. Drivers age 75 and older were the least likely, but even one percent of them admitted to texting and 31 percent admitted to talking on a handheld cell phone while driving in the previous month.

A few notes:

  • One out of 10 fatal car crashes involves distraction, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths per year in the U.S.
  • At any given daylight moment, approximately 660,000 drivers in the U.S. are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • Using a cell phone while driving quadruples your chance for being involved in a car accident, according to AAA.
  • Talking on a handheld cell phone is banned in 12 states and the District of Columbia. It is legal in Massachusetts and the rest of New England. Cell phone use is restricted for novice drivers in 37 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Texting while driving is banned for drivers in 41 states and the District of Columbia, including Massachusetts. It is also banned in other New England states. Six other states have bans prohibiting novice drivers from texting.
  • Using hands-free devices or infotainment systems is not safer than using handheld cell phones or texting, according to a study by a University of Utah research team. The study last summer tested voice-to-text technology which allows drivers to talk on the phones, send texts and e-mails and use social media without touching a cell phone. The study measured driver alertness using cameras mounted inside the vehicle and diagnostic tools to measure reaction time and brain activity.
  • Researchers ranked voice-to-talk technology as more dangerous than using a handheld cell phone and listening to a radio.

Map of handheld cell phone bans, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Hands-free talking, texting is unsafe, University of Utah

Teens report texting or using phone while driving significantly less often than adults, AAA Read More

Massachusetts Texting While Driving Ban: 3 Years Today

Texting while drivingDrivers may claim they are not texting behind the wheel. But Massachusetts State Police say that at least 440 of them were doing just that in June.

State Police cited these drivers over three weeks in the Merrimack Valley, part of a federally funded enforcement grant involving 12 communities. Another 509 drivers were ticketed for impeded operation, after being caught engaged in distractions such as reading and grooming while driving.

The numbers are notable as today marks three years since the Safe Driving Law took effect in Massachusetts, placing new restrictions on drivers under 18 years old and banning all drivers from texting while driving. Three years later, how well are you complying with the law?

The law bans texting by drivers, including reading, writing or sending messages. This includes text messages, e-mails and messages sent through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Drivers cannot text while driving or sitting at red lights, intersections or on other public ways. Texting while driving is a primary offense, meaning police can pull drivers over when they suspect the behavior.

The law also covers more than cell phones. It bans communicating through any device while you are driving, including tablet computers and laptops.

Fines for Texting While Driving in Massachusetts
Drivers are permitted to talk on cell phones in Massachusetts. But operators under 18 years old are banned from all cell phone use, a measure passed as part of the Safe Driving Law.

One area of confusion with the texting while driving ban has been the use of GPS, especially GPS apps in smartphones. The Registry of Motor Vehicles reported back in 2010 that such use was not a violation of the law, though State Police said they would use discretion with GPS units and could cite drivers for “unsafe operation.”

Across the country, 41 states ban texting while driving. Fines in Massachusetts drivers are $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second and $500 for third and all subsequent acts. When a driver causes serious injury or death as a result of texting, they can also face criminal charges.

One Massachusetts newspaper has called for more. In today’s edition, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette noted that drivers who violate the law do not face any impact on their license or auto insurance rates and called on the Legislature to strengthen laws.

“To create a true deterrent, lawmakers must strengthen the penalties, particularly for second and subsequent offenses,” the Telegram & Gazette wrote.

Maybe the Legislature will review the law. Enforcement will continue. State Police have launched Phase 2 of their “Text with one hand, ticket in the other,” campaign in the Lowell and Merrimack Valley area.

But the discussion goes beyond a $100 ticket to safety and responsibility on the road. Any cell phone use that takes a driver’s attention off the road is negligent and can cause a car accident resulting in serious injuries or death. So we ask again. Have you complied with the law? Are there are additional steps you could take?

If you have any doubts about safety, or the terrible effects three seconds of inattention might bring, please watch this video: “From One Second To The Next,” by Werner Herzog. It is part of AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign.

Texting While Driving Crackdown Nets 440, Lowell Sun.

Tougher penalties needed, Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Safe driving law applies to more than just texting behind the wheel, The Boston Globe.
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