Most states across the country have adopted some form of ban on texting while driving, including Massachusetts. However, the effectiveness of these bans has come into question. The laws tend to be difficult to enforce due to the fact that many states have not fully banned the use of cell phones while operating a vehicle. Law enforcement therefore often finds it difficult to determine when someone is texting and when someone is using the phone.
As of 2016, one out of every six automobile accidents that resulted in an injury was distracted-driving related. However, it can be difficult to prove that an individual was distracted in the absence of time-stamped text messages. Use of apps, email, or social media often lack timestamps that can prove the driver was using the device at the time of the accident.
Some states have begun implementing bans on cell phone use by motor vehicle operators to eliminate any questions related to the purpose for which the driver is using the phone. This allows law enforcement to be more aggressive in their citation procedures for distracted drivers. However, until Massachusetts implements a law of this type, it will be as much on the drivers themselves to recognize the danger distracted driving poses to themselves as well as to others.
In Massachusetts, texting and driving punishment results in monetary fines, unless you are under the age of 18, which results in the loss of license privileges for six months.
The real punishment often comes in situations where texting and driving is the cause of an accident that results in injury or death. In 2017, an 18-year-old driver in Massachusetts was convicted of vehicular homicide after it was determined that he was texting at the time that he crossed the center lane and struck an oncoming vehicle, killing the driver and severely injuring its passenger. The conviction led to one year in jail. Convictions like this increase the likelihood of punishment for texting and driving related accidents and should encourage more drivers to take the state’s ban on it seriously.
Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorney Larry Nussbaum, founder of the Nussbaum Law Group, P.C. received his Juris Doctor from Suffolk Law School in Boston, Massachusetts. He can be found on LinkedIn and Yelp.