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‘Critically Important’: Baker Details Hands-Free Driving Law Ahead of Weekend Launch

Warnings will be issued until April 1, after which violators must pay fines

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Gov. Charlie Baker urged the public end distracted driving Thursday ahead of the rollout of the state's long-awaited hands-free driving law set to take effect this weekend.

"It's critically important for all of us to understand and recognize that while this law is going into effect shortly, the most important thing that we can get out of this law is a dramatic change in behavior with respect to how we all think about our time behind the wheel," Baker said in a press conference.

The remark came as the state prepares to put the law in effect Sunday, meaning police will begin pulling people over and issuing warnings for distracted driving.

Warnings will be issued until April 1, after which violators must pay fines.

"Massachusetts consistently rates among the 10 worst states in the country for distracted driving and I think in many ways this law is overdue, but I also believe it will, over time, save lives," Baker said at the Newton police headquarters.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker discussed the state's long-awaited hands-free driving law Thursday set to take effect this weekend.

Baker's address was followed by an "enforcement demonstration" by police to make sure motorists are aware of how the law will be enforced.

"You cannot handle the phone to make or receive a call, to read or write text, to use email or the internet," Massachusetts State Police Col. Christopher Mason said.

The long-awaited bill signed into law last year makes it illegal to hold a cellphone while driving in the Bay State.

The law aims to eliminate distracted driving by criminalizing the act of holding a cellphone while behind the wheel.

The new law means everything to hands-free driving advocate Jerry Cibley.

"My son Jordan was killed 13 years ago while on his cell phone," Cibley said. "Since the night before he was buried, I've been working tirelessly to get this bill enacted and passed." 

Under the new bill, the use of all electronic devices would be forbidden unless they are used with hands-free methods. Drivers could still use navigation systems if they are mounted on the dashboard, center console or windshield.

The bill states that a "single tap or swipe" to activate or deactivate hands-free mode is permitted.

Fines for those who disobey the law would range from $100 to $500.

First-time offenders would face a $100 fine, $250 fines would be issued for second offenses and a third or any subsequent offense would face a $500 fine and would also draw auto insurance surcharges.

In addition to the fines, drivers who commit a second or subsequent offense would be required to complete a Registry of Motor Vehicles program about distracted driving.

"The most important thing we hope we get out of this law is a dramatic change in behavior," Baker said.

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