The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has teamed up with the Boston University AdLab to launch a new public education campaign aimed at combating distracted driving. Together the collaborative team came up with  "mass DO NOT DISTURB," where the initiative seeks to raise awareness about the dangers of using electronic devices while driving and promote the use of hands-free technology.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is a leading cause of fatal accidents, resulting in thousands of deaths and injuries each year. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds, which, at 55 mph, is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with closed eyes.

The campaign was announced following the fourth anniversary of the Hands-Free Law, which prohibits the use of electronic devices while driving unless they are being used hands-free. The law, which went into effect on February 23, 2020, is part of the Commonwealth's 'Strategic Highway Safety Plan' and aims to reduce distracted driving and prevent crashes involving distracted drivers.

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"MassDOT is proud to announce our partnership with the BU AdLab for the mass DO NOT DISTURB campaign," MassDOT Secretary and CEO Monica Tibbits-Nutt said, "MassDOT is committed to a future without roadway deaths, and raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving is an important step towards that goal."

Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver agreed with Tibbits-Nutt's sentiments, emphasizing the importance of keeping hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. "Despite the passage of the Hands-Free Law, distracted driving remains a top cause of fatal accidents," Gulliver explained.

Since the Hands-Free Law went into effect, the number of citations issued for distracted driving has steadily increased. In 2020, nearly 30,000 citations were issued, and that number rose to nearly 54,000 in 2023.

Under the law, operators of motor vehicles cannot use electronic devices unless they are being used in 'hands-free' mode. This includes reading or viewing text, images, or videos, unless the device is being used for navigation and is mounted in an appropriate location. Making phone calls is also prohibited unless the operator can do so without holding the phone, or using Bluetooth.

Violating the Hands-Free Law comes with fines ranging from $100 for a first offense to $500 for a third or more offense. A third offense (or more) will also count as a surchargeable incident, and operators who commit a second or third offense are required to complete an educational program focused on distracted driving prevention.

The mass 'DO NOT DISTURB' campaign aims to remind drivers of the importance of staying focused and avoiding distractions while behind the wheel. By promoting the use of hands-free technology and raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, MassDOT and BU AdLab hope to make Massachusetts roads safer for everyone.

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