Massachusetts Legislation


Phone laws put in the fast lane

Over the past couple years, more and more attention has been brought to the dangers of distracted driving. In particular, using your cell phone while driving. Some states have already made strict rules limiting use to only hands-free devices while other states have not done much. Recent legislation purposed in the House of Representatives would make it illegal to talk on a hand-held cell phone while driving nationwide.

Under this legislation, juvenile drivers would be prohibited from using a cell phone all together, while adult drivers would only be allowed to use hands-free devices.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said driver distraction accounts for 15 percent of highway dealths per year. Further research by the Department of Transportation estimates that drivers who use hand-held devices are 20 times more likely to get in a car accident then those using hands-free devices.

With statistics like these, it seems like the House may have good cause to pass this legislation through. Stay up to date on developments on this story here at MassDrive!

Toyota Recall & Massachusetts Residents

Toyota’s freeze on the productions of popular vehicle models and recall of 4.1 million additional vehicles may be reason enough take look at your own vehicle. Toyota announced last week accelerator pedals made by CTS may stick or slowly release from a depressed position on 2.3 million U.S-built cars and light trucks, causing them to speed uncontrollably. Toyota’s public accusation was not lightly taken as CTS shares have fallen 18% since January 20th, day before Toyota pin pointed CTS as the reason for recall.

Massachusetts Division of Insurance has ruled Toyota owners who believe the cause of a previous accident was caused by the sticking CTS pedal may appeal recent and older auto insurance surcharges. The driver appealing auto insurance surcharges must be able to prove the cause of the accident was uncontrolled acceleration. Toyota drivers must also be able to prove the vehicle involved was a recalled model. If you would like to appeal an insurance surcharge know that you must lodge an appeal by March 3oth or within 60 days of receiving a recall notice, whichever occurs latest.

Toyota plans on shipping the necessary replacement parts to dealerships across the country later this week. Technicians will still need to be trained to install the essential parts however Toyota is working to solve this major safety issues as quickly as they can. This is the car manufacturer’s second major recall, the first caused by floor mat entrapment, shaking Toyota’s confidence and share of the auto market.

Snowmobile Safety and Youngsters

Currently in Massachusetts, “A person between the ages of 12 and 14 years old may operate a recreation vehicle or a snow vehicle if directly supervised by a person 18 years old or older,” according to 323 CMR 3.03. Recent accidents involving youth have left people wondering if tougher laws should be in place. Snowmobile organizations are now seeking out these tougher laws.

The new legislation reads, youth ages 14 to 16 would need direct adult supervision to operate a recreational vehicle and would only be allowed to operate a vehicle with an engine capacity of no more than 90cc. Furthermore, young individuals would be required to complete a safety course to operate these vehicles. This portion of the legislation would be phased in over time.

The Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts offers these safety courses. President of the association, Daniel Gould, said that “many parents do not seem to realize the dangers” of operating these vehicles. With speeds of 50 miles per hour, crashes can quickly become fatal.

These safety courses offer tips of the trade that can be very useful while riding. Overall, if you are going to ride, be safe!

Attorney General Pushes for Change in Auto Insurance Market

The State Attorney General’s office released a report this last December contending the deregulated auto insurance market has not decreases rates for consumers. Prior to deregulation Massachusetts insurance rates were set by state regulators and based on driving records and location the car is registered. Because of this there was little variation in quotes from one company to the next. Prior to deregulation insurance carriers were also required to write a policy for just about any driver which, no pun intended, drove many insurance carriers away from offering coverage in Massachusetts.

The new managed market allows insurance carriers to set their own rates, include more factors in the rating process, and reject more applicants. This means younger drivers, senior citizens, and those who do not own a home may will most likely have more expensive policies than a middle aged homeowner with an identical driving record. The managed market has brought a many insurance carriers to offer coverage in Massachusetts and create more competition.

Attorney General Martha Coakley expressed she was concerned drivers are not getting the best rates and protection. Coakley has proposed multiple improvements to the current system including the creation of a website for side-by-side comparisons of quotes for all carriers.

Frank Mancini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Insurance Agents disagrees with Coakley. Mancini stated:

The jury’s still out. Rates are probably going to go up because the business is cyclical, and that would have happened under the system we had.

– “AG Urges Changes in Auto Insurance” from The Boston Globe

Although Manchini agrees that the insurance division’s website has been less than efficient, he noted many drivers who receive lower rates utilized an insurance agent. Using an agent who writes insurance for more than one carrier is the best way to go about comparing auto insurance premiums. Someone who writes for more than one carrier will know the varying discounts each carrier offers and compare identical coverages for you. A great resource for this type of agent can be found through MassDrive.

The only way to truly make deregulation work for you is comparing quotes from different insurance carriers. Utilize the resources available and save yourself some stress, time and money.

Massachusetts Mandatory Auto Insurance Laws

To first time drivers and auto owners the multiple insurance agencies, coverages,  and state laws may seem a bit overwhelming. Starting with the very basics of auto insurance, it’s important to know that auto insurance is legally required in Massachusetts. While auto insurance may be legally mandated, the benefits an insurance policy in the event of an accident are so great you should want to purchase auto coverage.

What are sufficient limits? Massachusetts law mandates when operating a vehicle it has certain minimum insurance coverages. Taking a look at these coverages is a good start to understanding what amount of coverage you should purchase. The Massachusetts minimum coverages include:

  • Bodily Injury Coverage: $20,000 per person & $40,000 per accident
  • Uninsured Motorist Bodily Liability: $$20,000 per person & $40,000 per accident
  • Personal Injury Protection:$8,000 limit

However the minimum state coverages are rarely enough in the event of a serious accident. For example, if you’re involved in a head on collision, chances are the above coverages will not be enough for the entirety of the accident. If you are considering minimum state coverages please read the article: “Why You Need More Than the Minimums“.

When shopping for auto insurance the only way to guarantee you are getting the best price is to shop around. Many auto insurance companies offer discounts. Not all insurance companies will offer the same discounts, thus shopping around will help you find the company with the best discount combination. An easy way to do this without spending too much time shopping yourself is to utilize one of our friendly MassDrive agents. MassDrive helps you find the insurance carrier with the best fit for you, comparing quotes from multiple companies. Either way, comparing quotes may save you some serious cha-ching.

Deregulation

New reports are showing that deregulation of the insurance market is not proving to be successful. “When the Division of Insurance introduced the new deregulated auto insurance system nearly two years ago, they contended that this system would result in better rates for consumers,” said Attorney General Martha Coakley in a statement. “While the long-term results of this new system remain to be seen, our office is concerned that consumers may not, in fact, be getting the best rates and the protections they deserve.”

This report from Attorney General Martha Coakley, points out that one of the main causes from increased rates is the lack of consumers shopping around. Shop around! If you do not shop around you are not going to get the best policy for your dollar. The deregulation has brought in more insurance providers so it is important for consumers to take advantage of this and save some money!

Dangers of Texting and Driving

It’s amazing what  younger generations can accomplish with a few clicks of their cell phone. From making plans for the evening and shopping online to ordering a meal to go, texting and smart phones make life more convenient. While the novelty and ease of communication via texting is widely used, the dangers of this activity behind the wheel must be taken seriously. Many may say something to the effect of, “What? It’s not like I’m drinking and driving!” Which is the truth, the reaction time of someone with a blood alcohol content of .08 reacts four times more quickly than when they are texting sober according to a study by CarandDriver. While 17 states ban texting and driving and 7 states ban complete hand held cell use behind the wheel the temptation may still remain.

When the dangers are this evident that even driving drunk may be safer than texting should make someone think twice before picking up that cell phone behind the wheel. If you struggle with the temptation to check that e-mail or text here are a few ways to avoid it:

  • Give yourself a reality check and watch this video the Today Show featured in a texting & driving segment.
  • If you’re trying to find an address, pull over and park before checking your phone.
  • If you have someone in the car with you ask them to help you break the texting habit.
  • Place your cell phone out of reach.
  • If this isn’t enough to stop you, turn your cell phone off.

Drunk Driving Loophole

Drivers arrested on some MA college campuses have found an escape route from DUI charges. State Representative Lew Evangelidis observed a man was arrested on the Assumption College Campus for a DUI, however was released without a DUI charge. The judge was forced to release him with out this charge because the college campus was considered private property. Evangelidis submitted a piece of legislation this week to expose this loophole and stop students from using this technicality to get around the serious consequences a DUI brings.

First Time Home Owners Tax Credit Extended

The Home Buyer Tax Credit legislation has signed an extension of the $8,000 max tax credit to first time home owners to April 30th of 2010. Recent home buyers are relieved as the time line has been extended making less of a rush for processing paper work and home sales at lightening speed.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 states those who have not owned a primary residence for 3 years will be considered first time home buyers and eligible for the tax credit. These first time buyers may recieve a a tax break of up to 10% of the home’s final sale price, with an $8,000  maximum. The extension has also broadened the number of people eligible for the credit, allowing those who have lived in the same home for five continuous years & meet the other pre-requisites  to be eligible for a credit up to $6,500. The tax credit has stimulated the Massachusetts home market to it’s highest number of sales in the past two years.

Massachusetts Unemployment Down

For the first time in two and a half years Massachusetts’ monthly unemployment has fallen. According to the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development unemployment dropped from 9.3 percent in September to 8.9 percent in October. Governor Deval Patrick said he was pleased about the unemployment drop but remains evenly tempered knowing they have aways to go.

Over the past month the Massachusetts Government says jobs were created in the professional, scientific and business services; education and health services; government; and construction sectors. It was also stated jobs were lost in the manufacturing; trade, transportation and utilities; information; and financial activities sectors.

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