Massachusetts Legislature Considers Ban on Cell Phones While Driving

HK_Cheung_Sha_Wan_Night_Cheung_Wah_Street_Un_Chau_Street_traffic_accident_Ambulance_Nov-2013Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of accidents and collision-related fatalities today. In 2011, for example, roughly 23 percent of all motor vehicle accidents involved a driver operating a mobile phone device while behind the wheel. That translates to a whopping 1.3 million accidents. Although many drivers who use their phones while driving believe they are capable of keeping their eyes on the road, studies have shown that looking at your phone or another device for as little as five seconds can cause an accident to occur. Overall, texting while driving makes it 23 times more likely that an accident will take place.

The Massachusetts legislature is considering a piece of legislation that would prohibit the use of any handheld mobile device while operating a motor vehicle. The bill, S. 2093, is entitled “An Act to Prohibit the Use of Mobile Telephones While Operating a Motor Vehicle.”

In Massachusetts, the law already prohibits motorists from using a cell phone or other handheld device that can access the internet while operating a motor vehicle. The first violation of this offense carries a $100 penalty, while the second violation carries a $250 penalty, and the third offense carries a penalty of $500. Despite this law, police officers found it difficult to enforce without any way to show that the drivers were sending or receiving text messages while driving, without making a special subpoena request for cell phone records. Subpoenas are not typically part of a traffic violation proceeding unless a fatality or serious injury is involved.

Under the proposed statute, a police officer who observes an individual operating a motor vehicle with a cell phone near his or her head or ear will be presumed to be in violation of the statute. The law places the burden of proof on the driver to show that he or she was not breaching the law, or to show that an emergency situation warranted the use of the cell phone.

If you have suffered injuries as the result of a distracted driver’s failure to pay attention and exercise due care while driving, you may be entitled to compensation. To recover compensation, you must prove that the other driver failed to exercise the same ordinary care and skill that a prudent and reasonable driver would use in a similar situation. If the defendant violated a statute at the time of the crash, the plaintiff is entitled to use a rebuttable presumption that the defendant acted negligently. Finally, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s breach was the direct cause of his or her damages while also providing evidence supporting the amount of compensation that he or she is seeking in the lawsuit.

At the Law Offices of John S. Moffa, we have provided dedicated legal counsel to car accident victims throughout Massachusetts and are ready to put our skills and experience to use for you. Call us now at 508-362-5554 or contact us online to set up your free consultation today.

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