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.
As the baby boomers age the number of drivers 65 years or older rise on the road. Although new drivers joining the 65 + grouping drive further each year than generations before them, from 1997 – 2006 elderly drivers have experienced fewer fatal accidents than the same age groups in the past.
Although the causes for this decline are not clear the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety compiled statistics and believes it may be due in part to a greater self awareness. According to the Institute drivers are limiting their own driving more often as they age and develop physical or cognitive conditions. Some impairments that come with age include a greater limitation in vision, hearing, and flexibility as well as medication side effects.
Many elderly drivers are pushed by their friends and family to hand over their keys; which may also contribute to the decrease in elderly accidents. In these cases the older driver will need to ask family members for rides or depend upon public transit. This may be difficult when someone needs to get to and from church, the pharmacy, grocery shopping, and other places throughout the week.
Older drivers, all drivers for that matter, may attend safety driving courses to increase road safety and awareness. Although some drivers need to be taken off the road, these classes may instill the extra caution and safety tips elderly drivers need to be safe on the road. Driver-safety classes are offered by AARP, AAA, and other organizations touching on defensive driving, new traffic laws, and safety tips. A new bill passed through the Massachusetts House of Representatives last week and is currently pending in the Massachusetts Senate that would require elderly drivers to take a vision exam every few years to renew their license. Measures such as these will increase everyone’s safety on the road.
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.