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Recent Increased Penalties for Distracted Driving Pages
By Kevin Mahoney on December 20, 2013

Using a hand held mobile device while driving (phone, text, email), the penalty for a first offense still involves a maximum fine of a $150 fine plus surcharges.  The point violation increases from three to five points for offenses committed on or after June 1, 2013.

For violations that occur after July 26, 2013, a second offense within 18 months results in a maximum fine increase to $200 and a third or subsequent offense within 18 months the maximum fine increases to $400.

Drivers with probationary licenses (Class DJ or MJ) have these various penalties with the addition of a mandatory 60 day license/permit suspension.  A second such conviction within six months results in a revocation of at least six months for a probationary license or a revocation of at least 60 days for a Class DJ or MJ driver’s license or learner’s permit.

Exceptions to the law involve (1) a driver using a completely hands free device which allows the user to communicate without the use of either hand; (2) using a hand held device that is affixed to a vehicle surface; (3) using a GPS device that is attached to the vehicle for the purpose of placing a phone call to police, fire, EMS or other medical providers in the event of an emergency; or (5) when operating an authorized emergency vehicle in the performance of its official duties.

Additionally, as of October 28, 2013, the laws regarding commercial drivers are modified such that carriers must not allow or require the drivers to use these devices while driving.  Additionally, a mobile phone used by a person operating a commercial vehicle is not deemed to be “hands free” if the driver dials or answers the mobile phone by pressing more than a single button.  If the commercial vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device or other momentary delays, use of these devices is still prohibited.  An operator of a commercial vehicle holding a device to or in the immediate proximity of his/her ear engages a presumption that the individual is using the device.

These increased sanctions are ultimately designed to prevent accidents that result from distracted driving.  Similar to drunk driving laws, this is a predictable reaction to increase public awareness over the problem, especially in light of tragic losses of life caused by distracted driving.

Be safe.

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