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Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Joyce Applauds Senate Safe Driving Bill

Braintree — The Senate Ways and Means Committee released its version of a safe driving bill. Senator Brian A. Joyce, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, has been pushing for more stringent safe driving protections for over five years. Joyce filed his legislation for the third time last year, and believes that a common sense measure to improve the Massachusetts roads for drivers and pedestrians of all ages will finally pass this legislative session.
 
The Ways and Means proposal would require drivers over the age of 75 to submit to an examination measuring their cognitive and physical abilities once every 3 years. Drivers who fail the examination could petition to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to take a driving test to demonstrate they have the necessary driving skills for continued licensure.
 
The bill also proposes a ban on texting while driving for all drivers, while prohibiting operators of public transit vehicles and junior operators from using a mobile phone for calls or texting except in cases of emergency.
 
Currently, Massachusetts requires only a vision test every ten years. That means under current law, a 90 year old individual who passes a very simple vision test is allowed to drive until age 100, without any tests of the cognitive or physical skills necessary for driving. A series of recent high profile tragic accidents have heightened awareness of the need for passage of the measures advocated for by Senator Joyce.
 
Specifically, the Senate Ways and Means bill would:
 
Requires drivers over the age of 75 to submit to an examination once every 3 years that measures cognitive and physical abilities
 
Drivers who fail may petition the RMV to take a driving test in order to demonstrate the necessary driving skills for continued licensure
 
Requires the RMV to hold hearings regarding license suspension or revocation for drivers 75 years of age or older, within 14 days of the event that initiated the hearing
 
Civil immunity to physicians and law enforcement officers, who report or fail to report an unsafe individual to the Registrar
 
Upon receipt of a report RMV must suspend a license, and assess the operator’s capacity
 
Drivers with 3 surchargeable incidents within a 24 month period must take a driver retraining course, or else face a license suspension; current law requires 5 incidents in a 3-year period.
 
Bans use of mobile phones for calls and texting for operators of public transit, including MBTA
 
Bans use of mobile phones for calls and texting for junior operators, violation is a non-surchargeable, secondary offense
 
Bans texting while driving for all drivers, violation is a non-surchargeable, secondary offense.
 
Persons who text and drive and cause an accident resulting in injury to a person or property, face a fine of up to $200, and up to 2 years imprisonment, or both.
 
In 2007, Massachusetts passed a law restricting inexperienced teenage drivers from driving with non-family members or past midnight, and which mandated improved driver’s education requirements and stricter penalties for offenses. Teenage driving fatalities have fallen since that measure became law.
 
The full Senate is expected to debate the bill on Tuesday, March 2, 2010.
 

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