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.
The Patrick–Murray Administration has moved forward in an effort to make transportation agencies more accountable and strengthen customer service. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) introduced two new RMV initiatives this month that will encourage saving time for driver’s visits to the RMV to cancel a vehicle registration.
An average of 45,000 customers visit an RMV branch to cancel their vehicle registration a month. Prior to the new implementations drivers would have to wait in line at a branch to turn in their plates and receive a proof of cancellation. Today massDOT posted two additional options to cancel a vehicle’s registration:
Option 1: Visit the RMV’s online branch at www.mass.gov/rmv to verify plate cancellation. The customer will be instructed to destroy or recycle their license plates and need not visit a branch to return them.
Option 2: Under a pilot program available in the Watertown branch and expanded to Wilmington, Worcester and Plymouth by the end of the month, customers will be able to return their plates using a touch-screen kiosk in the branch lobby without waiting in line. Customers will use the touch-screen kiosk to print their own cancellation notices and deposit their canceled plates into the kiosk.
The Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles has made a large move encouraging drivers to use the online website by offering additional services through the RMV website. Drivers applying for a new license or converting an out-of-state license may fill out the majority of the paperwork online and be ready to complete the transaction in a branch, decreasing the amount of time spent in the branch itself. Other online services offered by the RMV include: license and registration renewals, ordering a Fast Lane transponder, driving record and crash police reports, reviewing a registration, title or lien, and signing up to become an organ and tissue donor.
Online plate cancellation was added to www.mass.gov/rmv website last month as a soft launch. Thus far the online cancellation has been used by 3,230 customers. Although this service is only a small portion of RMV operations, programmers are looking adding other simple service transactions to self-help kiosks such as paying tickets or citations.