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Thursday, December 23, 2021

Charlie’s Law Could Strengthen Distracted Drivers Laws in Massachusetts

On October 6, 2021, Charlie Braun was killed when he was struck by a car while riding his bicycle in Northampton, Massachusetts.  The driver that hit and killed Charlie Braun is facing charges of negligent motor vehicle homicide, failing to stop for a stop sign, and FaceTiming while driving.  As a result, there has been a new push to further reduce distracted driving in Massachusetts and it involves strengthening the state's current hands-free driving law and closing an existing loophole regarding broadcasting video content while driving.

The state's hands-free law, which went into effect in February 2020, already prohibits drivers from holding their phones while operating their vehicles, but, in a bit of a loophole, it does not prohibit operates from filming while driving.  More specifically, while the Massachusetts law bans drivers from viewing video displayed on a mobile electronic device, it does not ban drivers from recording or broadcasting video of themselves while driving, using apps like FaceTime or Zoom.

Senator Jo Comerford is proposing “Charlie’s Law,” to ban drivers from recording or broadcasting video of themselves while driving.  According to a report by State Farm Auto Insurance, the number of people recording videos while driving more than doubled in the last five years.  If the legislature approves “Charlie’s Law”, the only exemption for video use behind the wheel would be for dash cameras.

Distracted driving has become an integral part of many personal injury claims.  To prevail in a personal injury lawsuit, a claimant needs to be able to prove negligence, causation, and damages.  If the other driver was distracted at the time of the accident that is key support to prove that he or she was negligent while operating his or her vehicle.

This law would take an activity (such as joining a Zoom meeting from the vehicle) which is currently not technically illegal and make it a prohibited activity.  While arguments can certainly be made that operating a vehicle while distracted already constitutes negligence, “Charlie’s Law” would help close out a loophole that negligent drivers have been attempting to exploit over the past couple of years.

If you have questions regarding personal injury or “Charlie’s Law”, please contact the Law Offices of Samuel S. Reidy for a free consultation.


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