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Hands Free Law Creates Catch-22 for Ignition Interlock Users

Ignition Interlock Devices

Massachusetts Ignition Interlock Devices users may soon have difficulty performing the required rolling re-tests. This is because, effective February 23, 2020, the new anti-texting law goes into effect. The new law was originally intended to require cell phone users to use hands-free mode while driving but it does more than that.

It prohibits anyone from holding a “mobile electronic device” while operating a motor vehicle in Massachusetts.

The Registry’s Ignition Interlock Regulations require any interlock device (IID) used in Massachusetts to require the driver to perform rolling re-tests at random intervals. The purpose of these tests is to ensure that the driver did not have someone else blow into the device because he or she was intoxicated. The rolling re-test requirement is also supposed to prevent a person from drinking while driving.

Users only have a few minutes to provide the required breath sample and missed rolling re-tests can result in 10 year license revocations. This may put ignition interlock users in a “catch-22” situation, risk a 10 year license loss for missed rolling re-test or risk violating G.L. c. 90 § 13B, the new Massachusetts “hands free” law, which prohibits motor vehicle operators from holding mobile electronic devices.

The new law does allow drivers to stop their vehicles to use mobile devices so long as the vehicle is not stopped on a public way which is intended for travel by motor vehicles or bicycles. This means that interlock users will have to essentially pull over to a breakdown lane or some other area to take the required rolling re-tests. This may not always be feasible.

The new anti-texting law contains exemptions for using a mobile electronic device to report emergencies and disabled motor vehicles. It also contains an exemption for public safety personnel and first responders. It contains no exception for IID users to provide required breath samples.

A first offense is punishable by a fine of $100.00. A second offense is punishable by a fine of $250.00 and the requirement to complete a distracted driving program provided by the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Third and subsequent violations of the new law carry $500.00 fines and they are considered surchargeable events which can count towards license suspensions and increase insurance rates.

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