State, Local Officials Encourage Use of ‘Do Not Disturb’ on Phones to Prevent Distracted Driving

March 18, 2024

For Immediate Release

Contact: Lindsay Corcoran, 508-368-7252 or 774-670-8811

WORCESTER – State and local officials came together Monday to encourage the public to use the “Do Not Disturb” feature on their phones as part of a safety campaign that will include a brief moratorium on ticketing for distracted driving as police focus on public education.

The Worcester County District Attorney’s Office, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the City of Worcester, the Worcester Police Department, AAA, Safe Roads Alliance, and WalkBike Worcester joined to re-launch the Eyes Up, Phones Down campaign, which encourages residents to avoid distracted driving to reduce crashes and increase pedestrian safety.

For the first week of April, the Worcester Police Department will have a moratorium on ticketing for the Hands-Free law and will instead be providing informational pamphlets during traffic stops. All the partner agencies will be sharing in the effort to educate the public and encourage them to turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature, which mutes notifications on cell phones while driving.

“Taking this simple step, then keeping your eyes off your phone while you’re behind the wheel, will help make us all safer,” said Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early, Jr. “The hardest part of my job is talking to people in pain, and there’s so much pain when a family loses a loved one in a senseless car crash. We’re trying to prevent these tragedies and to make our roads safer for all who use them.”

“Road safety demands an effort from everyone on the road, and this campaign reinforces the message that staying focused while driving is one of the most essential safety practices,” said Registrar of Motor Vehicles Colleen Ogilvie. “As we mark the fourth anniversary of the Hands-Free Law, we want to remind everyone who drives that you have a responsibility to put your phone away and to pull over if you need to make a call, add new information to your GPS, or do anything else that takes your eyes off the road.”

“Despite the hands-free law and similar efforts, distracted driving is still one of the primary factors of fatal crashes,” said MassDOT State Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver. “Since the hands-free law went into effect, the number of distracted driving citations continues to rise annually, with nearly 54,000 citations issued in 2023.”

“As the city continues to invest in infrastructure to promote safe travel throughout the city, it is essential that residents practice safe habits themselves and not engage in distracted driving,” said City Manager Eric D. Batista. “It takes all of us – the municipality and residents – to create a safe community. I am proud to continue to partner with the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office, the Worcester Police Department, the Worcester Public Schools, and the Safe Roads Alliance on this important public education campaign.”

“Texting and driving is dangerous and can have deadly consequences. The Worcester Police Department is proud to be part of the Eyes Up, Phones Down initiative to encourage drivers to follow the law and prevent distracted driving,” said Interim Worcester Police Chief Paul Saucier. “Our department is pausing ticketing for distracted driving for a short time. Instead, motorists will be reminded of the state’s hands-free law.”

“When you get behind the wheel, your first responsibility is keeping yourself, your passengers, and the others on the road safe,” said Christina Hayman, Senior Manager of Government Affairs at AAA Northeast. “Your attention should be fully focused on driving. Hands free is not risk free.”

“We are proud to partner with this great team of road safety advocates and leaders in Worcester who are collaborating to make streets safer for everyone,” said Emily Stein, President of the Safe Roads Alliance. “The Eyes Up, Phones Down campaign is a great way to reach the public about the importance of hanging up the phone and focusing on the road. We share these roads with precious lives.”

“WalkBike Worcester supports this effort to address the issue of distracted driving,” said Karin Valentine Goins, Co-Founder of WalkBike Worcester. “The US is alone among developed nations with high and rising levels of serious injuries and fatalities on our roadways, particularly among people walking and rolling. Combined with design solutions that slow drivers and create space for other modes, public education campaigns encouraging drivers to turn their phones to Do Not Disturb and not use them while driving hold promise for encouraging more people to travel using human power by helping them be and feel safer.”

The Eyes Up, Phones Down campaign was originally launched in February 2020 in conjunction with the passage of the Hands-Free Law in Massachusetts. The law makes it illegal to use an electronic device while driving unless the device is in hands-free mode.

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