April is designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month by the National Safety Council (NSC). As part of the campaign, the Springfield Police Department is working to raise awareness about the importance of attentive and engaged driving, and is focusing on the dangers distracted driving poses to everyone on the road, including other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.
The Springfield Police Department will also have in place additional enforcement efforts throughout the month of April focused on distracted driving.
"Distracted Driving Month and our local enforcement efforts are important initiatives to help raise awareness and remind Springfield's drivers of the importance of driving safely," Police Superintendent Cheryl Clapprood said. "Doing anything other than focusing on driving puts you, your passengers and everyone else on the road in danger."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,142 people died in distraction-affected crashes in 2020, an increase from the 3,119 such deaths in 2019.
Massachusetts law prohibits drivers from writing, sending or reading electronic messages, using apps or browsing the internet while driving, even if stopped at a light or in traffic. Operators are permitted to use hands-free technology including Bluetooth, “single tap or swipe” to activate or deactivate hands-free mode, navigation technology mounted to the car’s dash and phone use in emergency situations. Drivers may use their phones if they are stationary and not in an active traffic lane. Drivers under 18 are prohibited entirely from using mobile phones and other electronic devices while driving.
The penalties for violating the hands free law are a $100 fine for the first offense, $250 fine for the second offense, and a $500 fine plus an insurance surcharge for the third and any subsequent offense.
Read more about the Hands-Free Law on mass.gov. Pamphlets with information about the law, in English and Spanish, can also be found on the webpage.
In addition to talking on the phone or texting, the NHTSA notes distracted driving as any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from driving, including eating and drinking, talking to people in the vehicle, or handling the stereo, entertainment or navigation system. When behind the wheel, drivers should only focus on driving, keeping their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel and their mind on driving.
Drivers are encouraged to:
- Turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive.
- Be good role models for young drivers and set a good example. Talk with your teens about responsible driving.
- Speak up when a driver uses an electronic device behind the wheel. Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the road.
- Always wear your seat belt. Seat belts are your best defense against unsafe drivers.
- Be alert for pedestrians and cyclists, especially those who may themselves be distracted.