We don't typically handle many moving violations at Kelsey & Trask, but a new law in Massachusetts goes into effect today, banning text messaging while driving. As a public service announcement to our readers, the text of the statute that applies to drivers over the age of 18 (M.G.L. 90 § c. 12A) is reproduced below:
Section 12A. (a) No operator of a vehicle or vessel used in public transportation, including a train, passenger bus, school bus or other vehicle used to transport pupils, passenger ferry boat, water shuttle or other equipment used in public transportation owned by, or operated under the authority of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, the Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority, Massachusetts Port Authority, or the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, shall use a mobile telephone, hands-free mobile telephone or other mobile electronic device while operating such vehicle or vessel; provided, however that this section shall not apply to the operator of a vehicle or vessel used in public transportation using a mobile telephone, hands-free mobile telephone or mobile electronic device in the performance of the operator's official duties; provided, however, that in order for the use of any such device to be made "in the performance of the operator's official duties,'' such use must have been made in conformance with applicable written guidelines issued by a public entity listed in this paragraph relative to circumstances when operators are permitted to use said devices in the performance of their official duties or pursuant to directives from federal authorities having regulatory jurisdiction over such public entity's operations.
Whoever violates this section shall be punished by a fine of $500. A violation of this section shall not be a moving violation for purposes of the safe driver insurance plan under section 113B of chapter 175.
(b) It shall be an affirmative defense for an operator under this section to produce evidence that the use of a mobile telephone that is the basis of the alleged violation was in the case of an emergency. For the purpose of this paragraph, an emergency shall mean that the operator needed to communicate with another to report any of the following: (1) that the vehicle or vessel was disabled; (2) that medical attention or assistance was required on the vehicle or vessel; (3) that police intervention, fire department or other emergency services was necessary for the personal safety of a passenger or to otherwise ensure the safety of the passengers; or (4) that a disabled vehicle or an accident was present on a roadway.
The statute that applies specifically to drivers under the age of 18 (M.G.L. c. 90 § 8M) is as follows:
Section 8M. No person under 18 years of age shall use a mobile telephone, hands-free mobile telephone or mobile electronic device while operating a motor vehicle on any public way. For the purposes of this section, a junior operator shall not be considered to be operating a motor vehicle if the vehicle is stationary and not located in a part of the public way intended for travel.
A junior operator who violates the preceding paragraph shall be punished by a fine of $100 and shall have his license or permit suspended for 60 days for a first offense and shall not be eligible for license reinstatement until he also completes a program selected by the registrar that encourages attitudinal changes in young drivers; for a second offense by a fine of $250 and shall have his license or permit suspended for 180 days; and for a third or subsequent offense by a fine of $500 and shall have his license or permit suspended for 1 year.
It shall be an affirmative defense for a junior operator to produce evidence that the use of a mobile telephone, hands-free mobile telephone or mobile electronic device that is the basis of the alleged violation was for emergency purposes. For the purpose of this section, an emergency shall mean that the junior operator used the hands-free mobile telephone or mobile electronic device to communicate with another to report any of the following: (i) that the motor vehicle was disabled; (ii) that medical attention or assistance was required; (iii) that police intervention, fire department or other emergency service was necessary for the personal safety of the operator or a passenger; or (iv) that a disabled vehicle or an accident was present in the public way.
A penalty under this subsection shall not be a surchargeable offense under section 113B of chapter 175.
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