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Police in Massachusetts passing out hands-free fines, driver fined twice



Colin A. Young, State House News Service

Since fines for using a cellphone while driving went into effect at the start of the month, 135 people have been assessed $100 for their first offenses and one person has already been hit with a $250 fine for a second violation.

From the time the new law banning handheld device use while behind the wheel took effect Feb. 23 until April 1, when fines kicked in, police issued more than 6,500 warnings or citations for violations, Acting Registrar of Motor Vehicles Jamey Tesler said Monday during a MassDOT board meeting.

Under the new law, drivers are only allowed to make a single tap or swipe to activate a device’s hands-free mode, and they must place a phone on a dashboard- or windshield-mounted rack to use it for GPS navigation. Those under 18 cannot use a phone in any capacity while driving.

Since the fines took effect on April 1, he said, 135 people have been fined $100 each for their first offense and one person has been fined an additional $250 and ordered to complete a training program as a result of violating the law a second time — in less than two weeks. A third offense results in a $500 fine and the offense is deemed surchargeable, allowing automobile insurers to increase rates.

“It is a critical safety initiative and, as you can see here, although we are obviously dealing with many things during this pandemic, the police continue to enforce this new offense and we will provide updated data at future board meetings,” Tesler said.

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