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Massachusetts’ texting and driving law may not be working

I-Team

Next time you’re in your car, look to your left and right; there’s a good chance you’ll see someone on their phone, looking in the mirror, or flat out not paying attention.

“Adjusting mirrors not looking, and on the phone, playing with their radios,” Richard Tetreault said. 

“Definitely texting. I see a lot of people blowing stop lights, speeding,” Jonathon Demos said.

Texting and driving is illegal in Massachusetts, but plenty of drivers do it anyway.

The I-Team spent weeks on the road, and what we caught on camera may surprise you. We spotted three drivers focused on their phones at a red light. once the light turns green, one drives off, their phone still in hand, in front of their face.

We also saw two drivers fixing their hair and makeup behind the wheel, and another driver took both hands off the wheel, to try and snap a picture of us.

The I-Team went on a sting with Chicopee Police in search of distracted drivers. Two plain clothes officers were stationed on Memorial Drive, with a marked cruiser a few hundred feet away.

In less than an hour, police pulled over a dozen people for texting and driving, 6 were issued citations. 

Chicopee Police Officer Mike Wilk told the I-Team, texting and driving citations have spiked in recent years. “It’s a huge problem, it’s a cause for many crashes, it’s a cause for road rage. We see drivers on their phone at the red light, the light turns green they don’t move because they’re on their phone.”

According to MassDOT data obtained by the I-Team, police across Massachusetts issued more than 6,300 citations for texting and driving in 2017. The number was even higher in 2016, at 8,600 tickets.

Attorney Robert DiTusa represents car accident victims, “One in four car accidents are caused by distracted drivers that are texting.”

DiTusa said proving that driver was on their phone during an accident isn’t always easy. “The problem occurs I think, when you look at their cell phone records and they don’t show the person was on the phone talking, or they weren’t necessarily texting, but you suspect that maybe they were using an app, or were looking at their Facebook, or reading an email or something like that.”

Cell phone records can’t track data usage to a specific time or date, which is one of the reasons why some state lawmakers have been fighting to ban all hand-held cell phone usage while driving, which is the law in 15 other states. 

If you’re caught texting and driving in Massachusetts, you’ll get slapped with a $100 fine for your first offense, $250 for your second, and $500 for your third.

 A juvenile will lose their license for 6-months.

Western Massachusetts Distracted Driving Citations by county:

 Distracted Driving Citations By County à   
By Year and Violation â Berkshire  Franklin  Hampden  Hampshire 
2013    
 ELECTR MSG SEND/READ          30        29     150        36
 JOL MOBILE DEV/PHONE          1 
 MOBILE PUB TRAN OPER          2 
 MOBLE DEV USE IMPROP           2       8 
 NEG OP INJ MOBLE DEV     
 SCH BUS-MOBILE PHONE     
 2013 Total          30        31     161        36
2014    
 ELECTR MSG SEND/READ          35        28     176        39
 JOL MOBILE DEV/PHONE          5         3
 MOBILE PUB TRAN OPER     
 MOBLE DEV USE IMPROP           1       19         2
 NEG OP INJ MOBLE DEV           1       1 
 SCH BUS-MOBILE PHONE     
 2014 Total          36        29     201        44
2015    
 ELECTR MSG SEND/READ          48        37     415        59
 JOL MOBILE DEV/PHONE           1         2      18         1
 MOBILE PUB TRAN OPER          1 
 MOBL PUB TRAN NON MV     
 MOBLE DEV USE IMPROP           1        11      31         5
 NEG OP INJ MOBLE DEV     
 SCH BUS-MOBILE PHONE     
 2015 Total          50        50     465        65
2016    
 ELECTR MSG SEND/READ          76        64     363        66
 JOL MOBILE DEV/PHONE           2         1      12 
 MOBILE PUB TRAN OPER     
 MOBL PUB TRAN NON MV     
 MOBLE DEV USE IMPROP          12        11      42         7
 NEG OP INJ MOBLE DEV     
 SCH BUS-MOBILE PHONE     
 2016 Total          90        76     417        73
2017    
 ELECTR MSG SEND/READ          96        68     347        93
 JOL MOBILE DEV/PHONE           1       12         1
 MOBILE PUB TRAN OPER     
 MOBLE DEV USE IMPROP          14        21      54        13
 NEG OP INJ MOBLE DEV           1        2 
 SCH BUS-MOBILE PHONE     
 2017 Total         112        89     415       107
 Grand Total         318       275   1,659       325

Complete list of all distracted driving citations by city in Massachusetts click here

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