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Distracted Driving

Texting while driving -- It's not just dangerous, it's against the law!

Northampton High School Key Club campaign to end distracted driving -- Click here to sign the Remember Alex Brown pledge not to text while driving

Distracted Driving is defined as driving while taking your eyes off the road (visual), taking your hands off the wheel (manual) and taking your mind off what you're doing (cognitive).

It is any non-driving activity that has the potential to distract the driver from the primary task of driving and therefore increase the risk of crashing.

Texting while driving is a  particularly alarming form of distracted driving because it involves all three types of distraction. In fact, Using a cell phone while driving -- whether it’s hand-held or hands-free -- delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent, according to a study by the University of Utah.

In Massachusetts, texting while driving is illegal  under the Safe Driving law that took effect in October 2010.

Any driver caught composing or reading a text message can be cited and fined $100. Operators of public transportation vehicles who violate the ban are subject to a $500 fine. 

(The offense is not considered a moving violation and will not be subject to an insurance surcharge.)

Drivers under 18 cited for using any type of cell phone or mobile electronic device with or without a hands-free feature are subject to a $100 fine and a 60-day suspension of their driver's license.  Offenders also have to complete a driver attitudinal course before their license is reinstated.

According to the U.S. National Highway Transportation Department Safety Administration, drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get intro crashes serious enough to injure themselves. A full 20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving.

And young people are particularly at risk. Some 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving.

Of those killed in crashes involving distracted driving, some 995, or 18 percent, involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction. Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Other distracting activities as noted by the United States Department of Transportation  include:

  • Using a PDA or navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Changing the radio station, CD, or Mp3 player
  • Eating and drinking
  • Using a cell phone
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps