Attorney Sam’s Take: Confession Of A Boston Defense Lawyer In The Face Of New Motor Vehicle Law

I have been breaking a new Massachusetts Motor Vehicle Law. Chances are, so have you.

Well, that’s sort of true. Actually, the law does not go into effect until next week. September 30th to be exact. You may have seen some of the message boards that have been posted about it.


That’s right, no more texting while driving starting next week.

“Oh, Boy”, I can hear you say. “Sam’s about to go off about a new and ‘unnecessary’ law!”

Believe it or not, that is not the case.

True, the law does effect civil liberties in ways which would make the late Jerry Williams, arch enemy of the seatbelt law, roll over in his grave.

Yes, driving to endanger, or while one is not paying attention to the multi-ton weapon they are driving has already been illegal, but sometimes we need more specificity.

How many times have I been driving, only to see some driver almost smash into me or someone else because they were texting and not paying attention?

A lot.

And how many times have I immediately grabbed my cell phone to text somebody about the “idiocy” I just witnessed?

Unfortunately, a lot.

Not only that, but I cannot even complain that the legislature made a sweeping law that does not take into account the people it seeks to manage, as I did with the so-called “Anti – Bullying Bill”.

“Ok, Sam, we get it. Good bill. You’re enchanted by it, although a potential offender. What’s in itl?”

Well, briefly, it outlaws use of all mobile devices while driving for drivers 17 and under, except in emergencies. It also outlaws all texting for all drivers.

Further, if you are 18 or older, you must keep at least one hand on the wheel while conversing on the phone.

When I read that, I started to wonder if that part was necessary. Do people actually drive with no hands? What do they steer with? Then, I realized that it was only people on the phone who now had to drive with a hand on the wheel and, since it was evening and I did not want to have nightmares, I stopped thinking about it.

The Safe Driving Law also prohibits use of mobile electronic devices behind the wheel including phones, text messaging devices, pagers, PDAs, laptop computers, video games, disc players, cameras and TVs.

Seeing the list of things people are apparently using while driving also got me a bit nervous, by the way.

Anyway, not included are permanently or temporarily installed navigation devices, rear seat video and calling for emergency assistance. The law applies even if stopped in traffic.

It is important, especially in this post-Bill Clinton era, to define what we mean by “mobile”. In this case, it means a device that ” is not affixed”, according to Massachusetts Registrar of Motor Vehicles Rachel Kaprielian.

“It’s going to be an interesting challenge for law enforcement officers,” predicted Medfield Police Chief Robert Meaney, Jr. “The first part of this enforcement campaign, it’s going to be difficult, it’s going to be awkward. There are going to be a lot of people pulled over and it’s going to be a learning curve,”

Of course, the law is also meant to act as a deterrent, considering statistics. Such statistics indicating, for example, that there were nearly 960,000 crashes last year were caused by distracted driving. Further, nearly 4,900 of them included at least one death. This is apparently a worse statistic than with drunk driving.

These deaths, by the way, may equal vehicular homicide which carries a 15 year prison sentence.

So, I will have to change my wicked ways in this regard.

Truth to tell, it is a relief.

Not to tread upon the late great Hunter S. Thompson’s terminology, but the “fear and [self]loathing” as I have various close calls is something I can do without.

Have a great, safe and law-abiding weekend!

For the original story upon which today’s blog is based, please go to

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