massachusetts drivers


Texting Behind the Wheel Bill: PASSED

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed legislation H4794 into law last week banning drivers from texting behind the wheel. The new law has made Massachusetts the 29th state to pass a law restricting texting behind the wheel. The passed legislation bans drivers from reading or writing an e-mail, texting and basically anything that doesn’t include talking on the phone while driving. Drivers over age 18 will still be permitted to take phone calls while behind the wheel.

Drivers under 18 years are prohibited from using a cell phone while behind the wheel. On a first offense the teenager can face a fine of $100 and a 60 day license suspension. If a suspension is given, the driver will have to complete a driver attitudinal course in order to reinstate their license. For repeat offenses charges can reach up to $500. These fines will not be considered a moving violation and is not expected to affect a driver’s surcharge.

“Texting while driving has become a serious threat to the safety of our roads and drivers… We have taken strong action to keep our roads safe by banning texting while driving and instituting needed measures to keep impaired drivers off the road. Protecting the safety of our residents is our most important task as elected officials and this bill will do just that.”

– House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo

The new law affects mature drivers as well. Those 75 years or older will need to renew their licenses in person and pass a vision text every five years to keep a current license. Under current laws these drivers have only needed to renew in person every 10 years. Further than the young and elderly, any driver who accrues three or more surchargeable incidents within a two-year period will be required to take a driver retraining and safety course or face a license suspension.

The new law is to take effect in October when officers may pull over any driver suspected of using a cell phone for a purpose other than making or receiving a phone call behind the wheel.

Massachusetts To Ban Texting Behind the Wheel?

The Massachusetts House of Representatives voted 150-1 last week approving a bill that bans texting while driving for all motorists and imposes a new requirement on elderly drivers. Only a day after the Massachusetts House passed the text-banning legislation the Massachusetts Senate voted in agreement passing the measure as well. This piece of legislation will travel onward to Governor Deval Patrick who has also announced he supports the bill and will review the proposal when it reaches his desk.

If passed the legislation will ban texting sate-wide while driving and restrict those under 18 to use a cell phone while driving except in emergencies. Drivers under 18 years of age who are caught texting and driving under this new legislation will face a $100 find on the first offense, $250 on the second, and $500 on the third and all subsequent offenses. The fine and ticket for texting while driving will not be considered a moving violation and thus are not subject to an insurance surcharge.

The proposed bill will also require drivers turning 75 years or older to take their license in to an RMV office to take an eye exam for a renewal and every five years after their 75th birthday. Another key part in the legislation is a provision created to encourage doctors to alert the state when a patient may be dangerous on the roads.

If this bill makes it’s way to law Massachusetts will join 28 other states and the District of Colombia in banning texting behind the wheel.

Scenic Summer Drives in the Bay State

The Gloucester Shore - A beautiful stop along the Essex National Heritage Area Scenic Byway.

Boasting of summer’s arrival the trees are green, beaches now open, and the shorts and tee-shirts have been taken from storage. Whether you have an afternoon or an entire day, a summer drive through the beautiful Massachusetts roadways is the perfect way to see more of the Bay State and learn about its history. To get out of your usual grind without spending bundles on a vacation check out the following Massachusetts scenic routes:

North-western corner of Massachusetts are the Mohawk driving trails. Three popular routes within the Mohawk driving trails include: Mouth Greylock – approximately 26 miles, Mohawk Trail – approximately 55 miles, the combined Mt. Greylock/ North Berkshire route – approximately 33 miles, the combined North Bershire/ Mohawk Trail route – approximately 53 miles, and the Mohawk Trail/ Pioneer Valley route – approximately 55 miles. Along the Mohawk driving trails are many attractions including the bridge of flowers where over 500 varieties of annuals and perennials are planted and maintained throughout the summer season. For more information on the scenic routes through North-Western Massachusetts visit the Mohawk Trail website.

For a wonderful view and aversion the Mass Pike, Jacobs Ladder Trail is a fantastic drive and a National Scenic Byway. This drive winds through parts of Western Massachusetts like the Mohawk trails however takes a few twists and turns of its own. Enjoy original 19th-century architecture in Lee Center or along the way a restored railroad station from the 1840s, an Italiante Grange Hall, two mill villages, and churches that remain the tallest building in town. For additional information about this scenic drive visit the Jacobs Ladder Trail website.

For drivers residing closer to Southern Massachusetts the beautiful drive along the Cape Cod Route 6A may be a perfect trip. Cruising through some of America’s oldest villages the Cape Cod route travels through: Sandwich, Barnstable, Yarmouth, Dennis, and Brewster. If you’re into history, many of the homes along this route are listed under the National Register of Historical Places. If you’re not so interested in the Route 6A’s historical pit stops you may stop by Sandy Neck and Sandwich Town Beach, perfect for a leisurely  swim or to soak in a few rays. For the more adventurous and outdoorsy Nickerson State Park is a perfect pit stop along this calming drive. For more information about the Cape Cod route 6A read up about it on the Travel Guide of America website.

Those living closer to the eastern coast will want to take a drive through the Essex National Heritage Area Scenic Byway. The Byway holds a plethora of historic seaports, colonial farms, village centers, and architecture. About 24 miles in length this would make a perfect evening drive and opportunity to learn more about local history. At one end of the Essex Byway is Gloucester, the large fishing community popularized in the movie “The Perfect Storm” and at the other the town of Newburyport, a historic trade and shipbuilding port. For more informaiton about this historically rich drive visit the Go-Massachusetts website.

Happy driving!

Massachusetts Bridge & Road Construction

Potholes plague drivers across the United States creating an uncomfortable and bumpy commute for many. According to a report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group drivers spend an average $335 per year repairing pothole damages to their vehicles totaling $67 billion dollars throughout the nation. The Research Group published its results in Road Work Ahead – Holding Government Accountable for Fixing America’s Crumbling Roads and Bridges. The researchers found Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Montana and Nevada to be the state with best road conditions. The states with the nation’s worst roads were identified as Alaska, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Vermont and California.

Massachusetts will be working to repair roads and bridges as summer and construction season begins. The report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group discovered the average U.S. bridge 43 years old and about 185,000 of them are older than 50 years. Governor Deval Patrick has been pushing the Accelerated Bridge Program, an eight-year $3 billion project to improve bridge conditions across the Bay State. This Project will reduce the number of structurally deficient bridges in the state system and create thousands of construction jobs on bridge projects across the state.

For many summer construction means delays and extended rush hours, however this does not need to be the case. For an update on construction projects across Massachusetts visit the Massachusetts RMV site. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration website is another great source for traffic and construction updates.

Massachusetts License Security Lock Down

Brand new Massachusetts driver’s license and ID’s have been released today with increased security features. The new cards have been put into production this week as new drivers and license renewals come through the RMV. The added security measures will help with law enforcement, banks, retailers and liquor establishments in validating the cards.The new license styles include an outline of Massachusetts that gleams when held to light. The old licenses were secured by ghost images of the driver’s picture, a kinegram or metalized optical device and ultraviolet-sensitive inks.

he Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has also required the manufacturer to set up a facility in Massachusetts for quicker delivery and to set up new jobs, the first time in over a decade they were manufactured locally.

Current driver’s licenses, identification cards, commercial driver’s licenses, junior operator and under 21 licenses will remain valid until their next renewal date. The Massachusetts registry expects to distribute approximately 1.4 million of the new cards to customers over the next year. The new licenses will be phased in over the next five years as drivers are required to renew their licenses.

Patrick-Murray Administration Announces 511

The Patrick-Murray Administration has increased the Massachusetts Department of Transportation efforts to strengthen customer service through online RMV services, the Accelerated Bridge Program, and now with spreading a free 511 service. The next generation of 511 traveler information service, as the press release describes it, is at no cost to the Commonwealth. Mass DOT will is partnering with Sendza, a growing Massachusetts communications software company based in Marlborough to make the 511 travelers information service available May of 2010.

This is the first time 511 traveler information will be available statewide as it was previously only available in eastern Massachusetts. The traveler information will give drivers the ability to automatically receive personalized travel information alerts via e0mail, text, or phone. The partnership with Sendza is of no cost to the state creating a one time savings of $4.1 million and a $1.2 million annual savings for MassDOT. The 511 information service currently handles about 500,000 a month. The Sendza-based 511 system is not only capable of this but holds the capacity for significant growth as the system’s availability spreads.

This partnership is a perfect example of our new transportation reform approach, working to deliver better statewide service to travelers at a reduced cost to taxpayers

-Governor Deval Patrick

July 21, 2000 the Federal Communications Commission designated 511 as the single traffic information telephone number for use by states and local jurisdictions. Traveler information systems have helped reduce travel times, decrease fuel consumption, and reduce the number of accidents. Massachusetts implemented 511 on October 15, 2007 providing real time traffic, transit, weather, and construction. The 511 traveler information is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days per year.

The new Mass511 system will go live in May 2010. For the latest information, check back at www.mass.gov/511 To learn more about Sendza, visit www.Sendza.com.

Recourse for Toyota Drivers & At Fault Accidents

Toyota drivers involved in recent recalls have worried about how this will affect their auto insurance coverage and premiums. Although a standard auto insurance policy does not exclude vehicles damaged while under recall, drivers may face additional surcharges and/ or costs if they were involved in an at fault accident. Thankfully Massachusetts residents have the option to appeal a court decision over an at fault accident, a privilege that was almost taken away by the former Massachusetts Commissioner of Insurance Nonnie Burnes.

Burnes felt, according to an article by William Lapointe, that with the newly deregulated market drivers would be able to shop around and find lower rates thus making no need for an appeals board as the driver may simply switch carriers. Massachusetts residents were weary of this measure to eliminate the Board of Appeals, however the final push to keep the Board came when the spot light focused on the fact that if a driver was assessed fault of an accident, although they have the ability to chose a different carrier their SDIP, or license point assessment, would remain the same. Pressure from the public, legislators and lobbyists was enough to force the government to maintain the Board of Appeals.

The Massachusetts Board of Appeals hears approximately 50,000 cases in a year from drivers who believe they were wrongly assessed the blame for an at fault accident. On average about half of the appeals are overturned and the at-fault-accident is removed from the driver’s record as well as surcharges by a driver’s insurance company.

The Massachusetts Division of Insurance issued a Consumer Alert announcing hearings for drivers who appealed a decision prior to the recall would be reopened. The Massachusetts Board of Appeals was not previously aware of the manufacturer’s defect and is looking to overturn any court decisions a Toyota driver may feel was wrongly determined with the new knowledge of the nation wide 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. A written appeal is read by the hearing officer and after this is read the driver will proceed 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. Do not take it lightly if you have been wrongly assessed fault of an accident.

Automated Toll Booths Anyone?

Highway officials may start testing a new form of electronic tolling in the next couple months. Governor Patrick Deval announced in his monthly radio station chat test runs of the proposed system may appear at the Massachusetts Turnpike at the Route 128 exchange.  With the new system drivers would no longer have to pull up to toll booths, rather they would drive under a scanner that would read transponders like those currently utilized by FastLane drivers. However the electronic tolling would also have the ability to read a license plate and send a bill or charge a driver’s account.

Governor Patrick Deval believes the new system will make toll-paying easier and safer for drivers as they would no longer need to fumble for change. Although the FastLane transponders are given out free and payment lanes are available, some drivers still prefer to pull up to a booth. A cash lane would need to be kept for those who do not have transponders, such as out of state drivers or new vehicles. Deval said this past Wednesday he would like to have the new system trials up and running sooner then later. When asked to elaborate on a time period Deval stated he hoped to see testing in the next few months.

Cell Phone Bill Proceeds to Senate

February 4th the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a bill banning texting while driving and requiring drivers to use a hands free device. The bill also restricts the use of cell phones by anyone under the age of 18 and requires drivers over 75 years to have a mandatory vision exam when their license is renewed every five years. A great success the legislation passed through the Massachusetts House of Representatives with a land slide vote of 146 to 9. However it has not been passed into law just yet, the bill must endure the senate’s scrutiny as well. If the legislation makes it to law it will make Massachusetts the 20th state to ban texting while driving and the 7th state to ban direct use of a hand-held cell phone.

Although strong support for bill was evident in the House of Representatives the legislation still needs to pass through the Senate to be enforced. Some opponents of the bill believe it impedes on the citizens civil rights and liberties. However a great number of representatives, including State Representative Carl Sciortino, believe the drivers safety and health take precedence. A similar bill was proposed the the Massachusetts government however never made it to law. Massachusetts Representatives, even some who approved the legislation, remain mixed about how strict they believe cell phone laws should be.

If the new legislation passes through the Massachusetts Senate violators will be charged $100 on the first offense, $250 on the second offense, and $500 on the third offense. The bill allows for insurance companies to decide for themselves whether or not to add a surcharge to drivers rates should they abuse cell phone use while driving. Also drivers under age 18 caught violating any of the restrictions found in the new legislation would have their license suspended. The new bill, if passed, is not to be taken lightly as made obvious by serious consequences if violated.

New Emission Free Vehicle: Villager LSV

Judeth Van Hamm and Michael Connelly driving their new completely electric, zero emission Villager.

(Boston Globe, “Slowly Does If for a Cleaner Way of Living“)

The new Street Villager LSV, much resembling that of a golf cart, is the new emission free way to get around town. Driving on roads with a speed limit of 30 mph or less these nifty vehicles carry up to four adults, never stopping for gas. The Villagers can go about 20 miles before needing to be recharged. Making it the ideal around town and short trip vehicle for city drivers. Each of these earth friendly vehicles are are estimated to cost about $10,000.

These golf cart like contraptions were made street legal in Massachusetts as of December 2008. Over half the United States have created laws permitting these low speed vehicles to drive on regular city roads. These laws are created with restrictions of course,  keeping the Evil Kenevil’s out there from driving along highways. Massachusetts law, for example, prohibits these types of vehicles from driving on roads with posted speed limits above 30 mph.

Extensive accessories from a custom dashboard to a radio and additional mirrors are available for the environmentally friendly vehicle. Qualifying Villager drivers will receive a tax credit based upon the vehicle invoice price, an estimated $880 to $1,300 credit. Although the weather may still be a little chilly for driving around town, expect to see more on the road as we near the summer season.

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