New Massachusetts Law Could Have Auto Insurance Effects

Massachusetts skyline

On Thursday, drivers in Massachusetts will be subject to a new law intended to make the state’s roads safer by discouraging motorists from distracted driving, with certain provisions possibly affecting offenders’ ability to maintain the cheapest auto insurance costs.

The law outlines new penalties for texting and talking on cell phones while driving; most notably, drivers 18 and older who get into an accident as a result of mobile phone use are subject to a 180-day license suspension as well as an insurance surcharge on their first offense. On a second offense, the suspension jumps to one year.

A number of fines will also be put in place for drivers who are caught talking and texting but do not cause an accident as a result, although these are not subject to insurance surcharges. For 18-and-older drivers, improperly using a mobile phone can result in a $35 assessment on the first offense, and the first offense for sending or reading text messages while behind the wheel may get the motorist a $100 fine.

The penalties for drivers under the age of 18 are even more severe. Any use of a cell phone while driving will automatically result in a $100 fine, attendance in a required attitudinal course and a 60-day license suspension.

All of these fines increase along with the number of infractions.

Other parts of the law include $500 fines levied against public transit officials — such as MBTA conductors or bus drivers — that use mobile devices while driving.

The number of states with laws banning or restricting cell phone use while behind the wheel has grown in recent months. Massachusetts is one of the 30 states that ban all motorists from text messaging while driving, and the national trend against distracted driving is visible on the federal level as well, with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood putting the topic front and center at the recent Distracted Driving Summit.

Though getting into an accident already is likely to raise car insurance premiums, the new law allows insurers to apply surcharges if a policyholder is convicted of negligent operation and injury from mobile phone use.

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

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