Cellphone driving laws: Florida and Massachusetts


Florida has a new law that prohibits texting while driving, which went into effect July 1. It’s called the Wireless Communications While Driving Law. From now until January 1, 2020, drivers who break the law will get a warning, but after that, a $30 fine will be imposed for a first offense, and a $60 fine for a second offense. But that’s actually just the tip of the iceberg – there are court costs, insurance surcharges and more that can make breaking the law quite costly. Florida Today explains why your $30 ticket becomes way more expensive, breaking down additional court costs and fees that bring your actual first-time penalty to $119 in Brevard County. (Each county’s fees may differ)  In addition to that, your auto insurance rates could cost you up to 25% more per year for three years. That means that a quick text could be very costly!

Local 10 offers a recap of what you need to know about Florida’s new texting while driving law. There are some exceptions, which they list as:

“Some exceptions apply. The law does not apply to vehicles that are stationary or to a driver who is:
– Performing official duties, such as operating an emergency vehicle (i.e., law enforcement, fire service professionals, and emergency medical service providers).
– Reporting an emergency, a crime or other suspicious activity to law enforcement.
– Receiving messages that are:
a. related to the operation and/or navigation of the motor vehicle; b. safety-related information (emergency, traffic, and weather alerts); c. data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or d. radio broadcasts.
– Using the device in a hands-free manner for navigation purposes.
– Using the device in a way that does not require manual entry of characters, except to initiate a function or feature.”

Massachusetts cell-phone ban law in the works

Massachusetts residents take note: In June, Boston.com reported that a driver hand-held cellphone ban moves closer to becoming law. The Senate and the House have both approved versions of the law and must now reach agreement on a compromise bill. But be aware that proposed fines are costly:

The bill calls for a fine of $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a subsequent offense. Those who commit a second or subsequent offense would be required to complete a program that “encourages a change in driver behavior and attitude about distracted driving.”

A third or subsequent violation would also be a considered a surchargeable incident under car insurance policies. The bill would allow an exception to using cellphones in the case of an emergency if no one else in the car is able to make the call.

Driving & cellphone use laws by state

Here’s a handy tool to bookmark: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) maintains a summary of cell-phone use laws with maps and a detailed chart listing of cellphone use laws by state.

They summarize three types of prohibitions for cellphone use laws:

  • Hand-held ban laws: Bans on hand-held phone conversations while driving are widespread in other countries and are becoming more common in the U.S. In 2001, New York became the first state to ban hand-held phone conversations by all drivers. Now 20 states and the District of Columbia have similar laws.
  • Texting ban laws: Texting is banned for all drivers in 48 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Young driver phone ban use laws: 38 states and the District of Columbia restrict cellphone use by young drivers.

MA Emergency: Gas Explosion Resources


 

Many of our Massachusetts neighbors experienced a terrible crisis last night, complete with gas explosions, fires and mass evacuations.  We’ve compiled a few resources and links that might be of help.

Emergency Services: Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) – If you need non-emergency assistance or information, call 2-1-1. Call 9-1-1 for emergencies.

MA Red Cross: American Red Cross of Massachusetts. Also see:  Get Help Now and Find Open Shelters  If you or someone you know needs assistance, please call the Red Cross at (800) 564-1234. This hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Gas Utility: Columbia Gas MA

Lawrence MA: Lawrence MA Emergency Alert – info on evacuations & shelter

North Andover MA:North Andover MA Columbia Gas Leak Information

Andover MA: Andover MA Gas Leak Updates

Twitter is often a quick way to get emergency updates. Here are some relevant Twitter links:

If you need to file an insurance claim, contact your local independent insurance agent.
For your convenience, here’s a list of many of the top insurance companies with links to their online claim reporting resources.

Attention MA drivers: 2 important MA Registry of Motor Vehicles alerts


Car document icon

If you are a Massachusetts driver, here are two important notices from the MA Registry of Motor Vehicles.

1. Temporary shutdown this week:

The MA Registry Of Motor Vehicles is converting to a new computer system so plan accordingly if you need services. All services will be shutdown from Thursday 3/22 at 7:00 PM and will reopen on Monday 3/26 at 8:00 am.

The shutdown will affect:

  • All RMV offices
  • All RMV services offered through AAA offices
  • All online services
  • All inspection services at stations that inspect
  • All inspections through dealerships that inspect

For more information, click for the MA RMV shutdown alert.

2.  New Massachusetts Licensing & Renewal Requirements as of 3/25

On March 26, 2018, to get or renew any driver’s license, ID card, or learner’s permit, you need documentation showing U.S. citizenship or lawful presence as required by federal and state law.

Related: After October of 2020, you will need either a passport or REAL ID when you fly in the U.S. or enter certain federal buildings.

See the MA RMV Guide for more information on meeting these requirements.

New law on MA scooters kicks in on 7/31/09: you may need insurance


If you live in Massachusetts and you own a scooter, the rules of the game are changing on July 31. Currently, many owners of 50cc scooters – such as some makes of Vespas and Hondas – have been registering these vehicles as mopeds, which requires only a sticker. But under the new law, “limited use” vehicles that can reach speeds of between 30 and 40 miles per hour must now carry license plates and owners will be required to insure them. Mopeds that do not reach speeds of 30 miles per hour do not need to be plated. The state also defines another category of “low speed” vehicles that travel between 20 and 25 mph.
The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles offers more information about the new law and the distinction between mopeds, “low speed” and “limited use” vehicles. If you are unsure about insurance requirements, call your local agent.
The new law is taking many scooter owners by surprise. In addition to the insurance and registration requirements, there was one other controversial side effect to the law – because vehicles with plates cannot park on sidewalks, scooter users were at risk of losing their special free parking status, one of the main benefits for commuters. At least for now, the city of Boston has agreed that the ban on sidewalk parking won’t be enforced unless scooters are blocking handicapped access or otherwise parked obtrusively.

Massachusetts drivers take note: Registry of Motor Vehicles services are changing


The economy is taking its toll in many ways – one of them being that states are looking to tighten budgets and streamline state services. The budget is taking a toll on Mass Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) services that many drivers have come to rely on. For example, the RMV no longer mails license renewal notices – it will be up to drivers to keep track of license expiration dates and to renew at least seven days prior to expiration. Your license renews on your birthday.
In addition, the RMV recently announced the closure of 11 MA RMV offices and a shift to 5 additional “mitigation” centers. The branches that closed or are closing include: Lowell, North Attleboro, Cambridgeside Galleria, New Bedford, Springfield (Eastfield Mall), Southbridge, Framingham, Falmouth, Eastham, Beverly, and Boston (Chinatown).
New new full and express mitigation offices will be located at: MTA Charlton Turnpike Center (full), MTA Natick Service Plaza (express), MHD Canal Visitor Center (express), MHD Peabody (express), and a location in Boston to be announced.
See a map of the new MA RMV
RMV reminds drivers that 18 transactions are now available online in the Express Lane. The RMV plans to partner with libraries to offer ways to help those people who aren’t yet taking advantage of online services help in earning how to navigate online. Online services include:

  • Change Your Address
  • Free FAST LANE sign up
  • License Inquiry
  • Permit Inquiry
  • Mass/Liquor ID Inquiry
  • Order Special Plates
  • Organ and Tissue Donor
  • Pay Citations (Tickets)
  • Registration Inquiry
  • Renew Your Driver’s License
  • Renew Your Mass ID
  • Renew Your Registration
  • Replace Your Driver’s License
  • Replace Your Mass ID
  • Request a Driving Record
  • Request a Duplicate Registration
  • Title/Lien Inquiry
  • Verify Your Driver’s Ed Certificate