Gov. Charlie Baker signed An Act Requiring the Hands-Free Use of Mobile Telephones While Driving on November 25. The law takes effect 90 days from the date of the governor’s signature.
The law may have a significant impact on companies with employees who are on the road with a need to communicate with the home office or customers.
The law does not focus solely on telephones but on "electronic devices." While the statute does not define an electronic device, the presumption will be that any iPhone, smart phone, tablet, GPS system or other electronic gadget that someone may use in a vehicle will be subject to this law.
Violators face new penalties that may include fines, remedial education and insurance premium surcharges.
The law defines hands-free mode to mean that a user engages in a voice communication or receives audio without touching or holding the device. The measure permits drivers to execute a single tap or swipe to activate, deactivate or initiate the hands-free mode feature.
- No operator of a motor vehicle shall hold a mobile electronic device.
- No operator of a motor vehicle shall use a mobile electronic device unless the device is being used in hands-free mode.
- No operator of a motor vehicle shall read or view text, images or video displayed on a mobile electronic device.
- An operator may view a map generated by a navigation system or application on a mobile electronic device that is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s windshield, dashboard or center console in a manner that does not impede the operation of the motor vehicle.
- An 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 by a motor vehicle or bicycle.
The law provides for limited exceptions such as the use of a mobile electronic device in response to an emergency. The law defines an emergency as when the vehicle’s operator needed to report that:
- the vehicle was disabled;
- medical attention or assistance was required;
- police intervention, fire department or other emergency services were necessary for the personal safety of the operator or a passenger or to otherwise ensure the safety of the public; or
- a disabled vehicle or an accident was present on a roadway.
Repeat offenders will face some of the biggest phone bills they have ever seen. The law provides for three levels of fines, remedial education and insurance surcharges.
The fines under this statute are progressive in nature:
- first offense-$100
- second offense-$250; and
- third and subsequent offenses-$500.
An operator who commits a second or subsequent offense shall be required to complete a program selected by the registrar of motor vehicles that encourages a change in driver behavior and attitude about distracted driving. It is likely that if there is any fee associated with attending this class, the cost will be borne by the employee.
The law also provides that if a person commits a third or subsequent offense it will be a surchargeable event against the driver’s insurance.
An operator found to be violating the law the first time will receive a warning up until March 31, 2020. After that, the law will be fully effective.
AIM HR Solutions has developed a model policy for member companies to use. It is available to all handbook subscription service members as part of their annual policy program. Other AIM members interested in receiving a copy of the policy should contact Beth Yohai or Kyle Pardo at 617.262.1180 for more information on the cost of the policy.
AIM members with questions about this or any other HR-related issue may call the AIM Employer Hotline at 1-800-470-6277.