This past month the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported motor vehicle fatalities sharply declined in 2009. At an all time low the fatality rate reported was only 1.13 deaths per every 100 million vehicle miles traveled. Incredibly the total number of deaths is nearing those of 1950 in a time of less traffic, lower populations and shorter commutes.
The report shows a decrease in fatalities of 9.7% while miles traveled from 2008 to 2009 still showed a slight increase. Massachusetts remains one of the safest states to drive as motor vehicle fatalities fell from 354 in 2008 to 334 in 2009. Additionally the number of deaths attributed to alcohol decreased from 120 to 108. The government attributes the fatality decline to many improvements and precautions including: an advancement in vehicle design, increased use of seat belts, and standard air bags included in vehicles that previously lacked air bags.
These statistical improvements are great, however it is important to realized even these numbers can be better. The number of distracted drivers on the road will hopefully decrease further with the recent texting ban. While driving, remember you have the lives of many in your hands. Put the cell phone away, set down your mascara/ razor and focus on the road.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation begun accepting application for the 2010 Low Number License Plate Lottery yesterday. Those who enter their names into the drawing are hoping for 179 of the most sought after Massachusetts license plates including: R12, F17 and 55A.
“Every year the plate lottery generates thousands of applicants because all drivers have an equal shot at winning one of these coveted plates… Last year more than six thousand people participated and this year we expect even greater interest.”
– Registrar Rachel Kaprielian.
Applications for the license plate lottery are available in all RMV branches and online at: www.mass.gov/rmv/forms/registration.htm. To be accepted all applications must be postmarked no later than August 9th 2010. Postcard entries, as indicated by MassDOT, will not be accepted. Those who have won the lottery and do not register their vehicles by December 31, 2010 will forfeit their license plates and will be offered to a list of 25 alternative winners who will be chosen during the main drawing.
The lottery winners will be announced at a live drawing at the Larz Anderson Auto Museum Saturday August 28th at 11:00 am. Admission to the museum and the current “Curve Appeal” exhibit will be free to all applicants. For official drawing details and a complete list of the plates up for drawing visit: www.mass.gov/rmv. Lottery winners will be posted on the RMV website Monday, August 30th.
Drivers who own vehicles recalled by Toyota over the past month have raised concerns about what this means for their insurance coverage and rates. Drivers who were involved in an accident prior to the recall have faced surcharges other related costs of an “at-fault-accident” that may have been due to the manufacturer’s defects and reason for recall.
Thankfully Massachusetts drivers have an appeal provision that protects these drivers from additional charges and costs of an accident due to Toyota’s recalled parts. The Board of Appeals hears approximately 50,000 cases each year, of which about half the original verdicts are reversed. Once overturned the “at-fault-accident” affecting a drivers record and increasing a driver’s insurance rates will be removed.
Drivers who wish to appeal a decision should discuss the appeal with their local agent first. Speaking with an agent will give the driver a better understanding of the terminology and may share a greater knowledge of auto insurance w to use in Massachusetts insurance carriers are required to use specific standards of fault when determining someone’s responsibility or fault in an accident. One of these standards includes the “Standard of Fault 19” in a collision that a single vehicle is involved, the fault is assessed to the person driving that vehicle. In other words if the accelerator of a recalled Toyota became stuck and the vehicle drove into a tree or other object, besides another vehicle, fault would be assessed to the driver. This is an at-fault-accident someone would want to bring to the Court of Appeals to remove this at fault accident from their record.
The Massachusetts Division of Insurance issued a Consumer Alert that announced hearings for drivers who appealed a decision prior to the recall would be reopened. The board was not previously aware of the manufacturer’s defect and is seeking to right any court decision that a Toyota driver may feel would have been different with the recall. After an at fault accident a driver should automatically receive a notice for their right to appeal the decision.
Appeal hearings are open to the public and for the most part informal. The written appeal is read by the hearing officer and the driver is then going to make his or her case for the appeal. It is also good to be aware that a representative for the insurance carrier will also be present. A person’s driving record is one of the most important determinants of auto insurance premiums. It should not be taken lightly when you are wrongly assessed fault of an accident.
Heavy snow fell last night and this morning weighing down tree branches, roofs, and power lines. The snowstorm has dropped between four and twelve inches of snow over central Massachusetts as temperatures daunt around 30 degrees for the day. The recent snow storm has caught the blame for a number of accidents as morning commuters trudged through heaps of snow. Including a particularly dangerous one on Interstate 90 just past the Route 84 exit. A truck involved in the accident sustained a ruptured fuel tank spilling fuel over the road. The already challenging road conditions combined with this accident created a nine-mile back up.
Power outages also plagued Massachusetts as the snow fall cut power from a number households in many towns including Fitchburg, Lunenburg, Ashby, Townsend, Southbridge. Approximately 4,500 National Grid customers as well as 1,500 Unitil customers lost power for at least a portion of the day today. Support crews have been dispatched and expect to have power available soon if it has not been already. Power outages and slippery roads are a dangerous combination. Drivers should do their best be on the roads as little as possible.
Road conditions varied throughout the state from sleet and slush to icy and snowy roads cautious driving is key. In many areas as the snow turns to sleet and rain it is imperative drivers are aware as the night temperature drops icy roads will become increasingly dangerous. State police have reduced the speed limit on the Massachusetts Turnpike and caution drivers to reduce their speeds where ice and snow have covered the roads.
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.