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Hands free drivingFebruary 23, 2020, is the effective date for the recently enacted legislation to improve road safety in the Commonwealth. Entitled An Act Requiring the Hands-Free Use of Mobile Telephones While Driving, the new law applies to all drivers in Massachusetts.

The Operational Services Division’s Office of Vehicle Management (OVM), which oversees the Commonwealth’s fleet vehicles, reminds Agencies and fleet personnel to ensure new vehicle acquisitions are equipped with hands-free communication technology. In addition, Agencies should account for, and facilitate, the needed equipment for existing fleet vehicles that do not have hands-free technology capabilities.

The legislation states that “No operator of a motor vehicle shall use a mobile electronic device unless the device is being used in hands-free mode. No operator of a motor vehicle shall read or view text, images or video displayed on a mobile electronic device; provided, however, that an operator may view a map generated by a navigation system or application on a mobile electronic device that is mounted on or affixed to a vehicle’s windshield, dashboard, or center console in a manner that does not impede the operation of the motor vehicle. For the purposes of this section, an operator shall not be considered to be operating a motor vehicle if the vehicle is stationary and not located in a part of the public way intended for travel by a motor vehicle or bicycle.”

The legislation also applies to phone calls or voice communications unless facilitated through Bluetooth technology, for example.

The use of electronic devices is permitted if they are being used in response to an emergency. It also permits the use of electronic devices by public safety personnel or first responders while operating an emergency services vehicle and engaged in the performance of their duties.

A hands-free kit, an earpiece, or an in-vehicle phone mount are considered acceptable ways to ensure compliance with the hands-free law. Statewide Contracts ITT46, Network Services Category 3 – Mobile Communication Services and Devices; ITC47, Category 7 – Supplies and Accessories; and ITT72, Category 1 – Cellular Services & Devices may be used to purchase after-market equipment.

While the law goes into effect on February 23, police will issue warnings until April 1, 2020. After that date, punishment for violating the hands-free law includes fines, surcharges, and, in some cases, the completion of an educational program focused on distracted driving prevention. OVM will track and enforce fines related to state vehicles under OVM’s oversight consistent with the enacted law.

Fleet personnel should direct questions to the Director of Fleet Policy and Administration, Alex Giannantonio, at 617-720-3171, or by email at alex.giannantonio@mass.gov.

Direct Statewide Contract inquiries to the Contract Manager; contact information is provided in each Contract User Guide, linkable above.

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