Massachusetts legislature


Senate Reviews Texting & Elderly Driving Bill

The Massachusetts Senate voted yesterday to ban texting while driving and to require elderly drivers to undergo regular cognitive and physical screenings every three years. The controversial bill finally made its way through the Senate with a 24 – 10 vote. The bill awaits a compromise between the House and Senate differences and lastly an approval by Governor Patrick Deval before it can be enforced by law. If this bill passes to law Massachusetts will join 19 other states that ban texting while behind the wheel. At any given time during the day in 2008 more than 800,000 drivers were using hand-held devices in their cars according to the United States Department of Transportation distracted driving website: distraction.gov.

The Senate rejected a portion of the House bill that would ban all cell phone use except by a hands-free device. The initial bill made proposed to make text messaging while driving a secondary offense, meaning an officer may only issue a citation if the driver was pulled over for a different violation than texting. The Senate rejected this as well and upgraded texting while driving to a primary offense.

The Senate’s revisions to the bill have created the following measures:

  • Require drivers over 75 to pass an examination of the motorist’s cognitive and physical capabilities.
  • Elderly drivers who fail the cognitive or physical examination may protest the RMV’s decision by taking a driving test demonstrating they hold the necessary driving skills for continued licensing.
  • Civil immunity would be granted to physicians and officers who report, or fail to report, an individual who demonstrated unsafe and improper use of a cell phone or is not physically capable of driving.
  • When a violation of the texting law has been reported to the RMV the driver’s license will be suspended.
  • Drivers who attain 3 surchargeable incidents in a 2 year time frame must either take a driver’s training course or face a suspended license. Current laws require this measure after 5 surchargeable incidents in a 3 year period.
  • Prohibits the use of cell phones for talking or texting for public transit operators.

The bills from both congressional bodies have been sent to a joint Senate and House committee to conjure a compromised version of the proposed measures. Keep an eye on the news for this piece of legislature, it is bound to affect every Massachusetts driver.

Mass House Approves Cell Phone Safety Laws Behind the Wheel

Thursday the Massachusetts House passed a bill that would make it the 7th state requiring drivers to use a hands free device behind the wheel and 20th state to ban texting. This is not the House’s first attempt to pass these types of laws. Two years ago a similar measure was passed by the House however soon after died in the Senate. There it was believed the hands free device was more of an inconvenience that did not improve drivers safety.

The new bill was approved this last week by a House vote of 146 to 9. This restriction however was not the only provision held in the legislation. It would also ban drivers from text messaging behind the wheel, prohibit the use of cell phones behind the wheel of those 18 years and under, and require drivers over 75 to take a vision test every 5 years. Drivers are currently required to renew their license every 5 years, however only take a vision test every 10 years. This bill would enforce stricter driving laws many feel are overdue.

Drivers who are caught texting or talking without a hands-free-device would be fined on the first offense $100, on the second offense $250, and a whopping $500 on the third offense. The bill would allow insurance companies to decide themselves whether a surcharge will be used if the new restrictions are passed. Drivers under 18 years caught using a cell phone behind the wheel would have their license suspended.

Senate members have mixed feelings about how strict these laws should actually be. Previous studies have suggested talking on a hands free device verses the actual phone leave drivers equally distracted by the conversation. Some members of the senate are pushing for the hands free device to aid law enforcement’s efforts. A point was made that if texting was banned however the hands free portion of the bill was not passed, how would officers know if a driver was placing a call or sending a text message? Looks as if we’ll just have to wait and see what the Senate as a whole makes of it.

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