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Friday, February 28, 2020

Massachusetts General Law c. 90 §13b

In some ways, we are all guilty of sneaking a glance at the screen of our phones while behind the wheel, whether stuck in traffic or stopped at a red light. A quick scroll through the email, a lightning fast response to the repetitive chime of incoming text messages. Now, as of February 23, 2020, to do so in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is illegal. Under new Massachusetts General Law chapter 90 section 13b, any use of a mobile device while stationary and or in an operational capacity while on a public roadway, unless the phone is being used as a navigational device and affixed firmly to the vehicle, is banned. This includes use at red lights and stop signs, or even pulled over to the shoulder, for even the briefest of moments, which means no more responding to emails or Snapchat streaks.

Limiting what a driver is allowed to do while in their vehicle, the rules this time around are stricter than past attempts to restrict device use while driving. Under MGL c.90 §13b, ‘use’ is defined as engaging in text messages, emails, opening apps, viewing videos or accessing the internet. Prohibiting the holding or touching of the device unless it is in hands free mode, it also mandates that the device be affixed to either the dashboard, center console, or a window where it will not impede operation.

Called the new ‘Hands-Free’ law, MGL c. 90 §13b comes with few exceptions. Appropriately abbreviated as ‘HAND,’ the use of a mobile device in any of the following instances constitutes as an appropriate emergency;

  1. (If medical) Help is needed;
  2. (There is an) Accident in the Roadway;
  3. (In) Need of (police, fire or medical) assistance;
  4. (There is a) Disabled vehicle.

With the above exception, there is also the First Response Defense, allowing emergency personnel use of their mobile device while driving an emergency vehicle in the capacity of performing their professional duties.

Granting a one-month grace period until March 31, 2020, citations during the adjustment period will be those stopped for subsequent offenses. Following the thirty-first, any offenses will be given a citation with increasing penalties. For the first citation an applicable $100 fine would be issued, with the second offense garnering a $250 fine and mandatory completion of a distracted driver’s program. Upon a third offense, the fine would jump to $500 and mandated completion of a distracted driver’s program, as well an additional insurance surcharge.

If you have any questions regarding MGL c. 90 §13b, please contact the Law Offices of Samuel S. Reidy by phone at (508) 296-4417 or by email at

by Courtney Garrity


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