Every driver has had the experience of watching a car in front of them weave, swerve, or fail to stay within its lane. If you pull up next to the car, there’s a good chance that the driver is talking on the phone or texting. Texting or e-mailing while driving is an unsafe habit, but some continue to do it nonetheless. Most of the time, little harm is done other than generating some road rage in the other drivers on the road. This is not to suggest that texting while driving is by any means a safe way to operate a vehicle. Many people are injured when a driver texts, is inattentive to the road, and causes an accident. Thankfully, Massachusetts has enacted legislation to address this public safety issue.
On September 30, 2010, The Safe Driving Law went into effect in Massachusetts. This law makes it illegal for a person to use a mobile telephone or handheld device capable of accessing the internet to write, send, or read an electronic message or to access the internet while that person is operating a vehicle. For those of you who wait until a red light to read and send texts, you should be aware that the law applies even when the vehicle is stopped in traffic. In addition to providing civil fines for violations of the statute, The Safe Driving Law also sets forth criminal penalties for any driver that causes injury to another due to texting while driving. The penalties are not slaps on the wrist – for a first offense, a driver receives a 60-day license suspension with a $500 reinstatement fee.
A person who texts while driving, causes an accident and causes injury to another driver, a pedestrian or a passenger in his or her car can also be held accountable in a civil lawsuit. Under Massachusetts law, a driver who violated The Safe Driving Law and caused injury to another would not automatically be found negligent, but the violation (and any subsequent criminal penalties) would most likely be admissible as at least some evidence that the driver was negligent. It seems to be common sense that a jury would find a driver negligent if the driver causes an accident and injury to someone because the driver was texting and was inattentive to the road.
As mobile phones and other electronic devices continue to provide drivers with abundant distractions, there is likelihood that more and more accidents will occur and that more people will be injured as a result. Massachusetts’ Safe Driving Law will hopefully help to reduce the occurrences of texting while driving, but the practice unfortunately will continue.
The attorneys at SUGARMAN are ready to answer questions and consult with anyone who has been injured in a texting and driving accident. Please fill out a Contact Form, call us at (617) 542-1000 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.