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.