Hands free driving law to be implemented in MA

Massachusetts has a new

Credit: Flickr user Pascal

Massachusetts has a new "Hands Free Driving Law" that makes it illegal to be holding a cell phone while driving. The law is starting on Feb. 23, 2020. "It’s a habit of phone for many people, so essentially, it’s like an addiction. They can’t put it down, and they need to constantly check it and be on it and just because they’re in a car, [the law] isn’t going to stop them from doing that," history teacher Sean Chase said.

Lindsey Brown and Emily Staiti

Cell phones are now distracting drivers to the point where a new hands-free driving law will be implemented in Massachusetts on Feb. 23. The new law will ban any use of a hand-held device such as texting and calling while driving.

Although Massachusetts lawmakers have set laws restricting phone use while driving, the number of car accidents due to distracted driving is still rising. Wayland students hearing about the new “Hands-Free Driving Law” have differing concerns about how effective the law will be.

“I feel like a lot of people will just ignore the law because it’s not like police officers will be staring at your hand while you’re driving to see if your phone’s there or not,” junior Abby Gavron said. “I feel like [others] will just find ways to be sneakier.”

Sean Chase, a history teacher at WHS, uses his phone to make calls as well as for finding directions. The new law will make it illegal for drivers to hold their electronic devices, to even talk on the phone.

“My car is pre-Bluetooth, so it will impact me in the sense that I won’t be able to make any phone calls at all,” Chase said. “I don’t necessarily mind [it], but there are times where [using my phone in the car] is a necessity.”

Some students use their phones mainly for directions. These students have concerns that with the new law, and they will have a difficult time getting to places because they are unable to use navigation apps such as Waze on their phones.

“I’m very directionally challenged, so Waze helps me find my way around and show me how to get to places,” Gavron said.

88% of WHS students who responded to a survey said they use their phones for directions. While students are concerned that they will get lost, some teachers with more driving experience are not.

“I’ll use [my phone] for Waze once in a while, but I take pride in trying to find things myself,” Chase said.

A common worry on the road is that people won’t be able to stay away from their phones for an extended period of time.

“I feel like because I haven’t been driving for a long time, I’m not used to using my phone while I’m driving,” Gavron said. “It won’t be a major change for me. I know older people have been using their phones forever while they are driving.”

Phones can be an addiction for many people, especially teenagers. People rely on them for something to do and distract themselves when they’re bored.

“It’s a habit of phone for many people, so essentially, it’s like an addiction, and they can’t put it down. They need to constantly check it and be on it, and just because they’re in a car, [the law] isn’t going to stop them from doing that,” Chase said.

Some people are checking texts or social media instead of paying attention to the road, causing car accidents.

“I usually just [use my phone while driving for] texting, calling, and checking my social media,” senior Timmy Goodfellow said.

Although Massachusetts state laws already ban people under the age of 18 from using hand-held electronic devices, the new law will extend to all ages. However, some students think the law will not change their phone usage in the car.

“I think [the law] will probably try to make me hide [using my phone in the car] more, but I don’t think it’ll make me change using my phone too much,” Goodfellow said.

Many people have concerns about how the law will go into effect, such as people ignoring the law or trying to hide it, which could lead to more accidents.

“Some people will [use their phones] and then others will do their best [to follow the law], but I don’t think it’ll completely stop people from using their phones [while driving],” Goodfellow said.

There will be a period until March 2020 where if the police stop anyone for using their phone while driving, they will only give them a warning, but after that, the first fine is $100, and the second offense will be $250.

“I’m not necessarily sure that the police are going to enforce it,” Chase said. “They have enough to worry about.”

Raising awareness for the new law is a challenge. Like when any other law is passed, drivers might take a while to adapt to this change. Some citizens are hopeful that not using your phone while driving will become a social expectation.

“I think it’s just like any other campaign that’s out there,” Chase said. “I know it’s not necessarily the same thing, but it is, in terms of its level of distraction, like drinking and driving. It took years to raise awareness of that issue, and it’s something people are better about now, and this, I think, is going to fall into that category. It will eventually become normal behavior, or the norm, the expectation that you don’t use your phone while driving.”