Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Safe Driving Bill Takes on Passengers

It started with a bill calling for vision and road tests for elderly drivers that Sen. Brian Joyce, a Milton Democrat, filed repeatedly for years. But the bill went nowhere.
 
Then legislators piled on.
 
The result: a loaded driving bill passed by the Senate on Tuesday.
 
The pile-on started as the Legislature’s Joint Transportation Committee combined Joyce’s bill with legislation that would bar drivers from sending text messages. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate then tacked on amendments, from banning all hand-held devices to reinstating the obligation of the Registry to send license renewal reminders by mail.
 
Here’s what the House and Senate have proposed, and the changes you need to know about. Any differences in the two bills will be hammered out by a joint legislative committee before Gov. Patrick makes the final call on whether it all becomes law:
 
TEXTING
 
House: Make sending text messages while driving illegal.
 
Senate: Also ban texting while driving.
 
HAND-HELD CELL PHONES
 
House: OK’d an amendment making it illegal to use a hand-held cell phone while driving.
 
Senate: Ways and Means Committee removed the House ban from the bill. It came back as an amendment but still failed.
 
OLDER DRIVERS
 
House: Drivers 75 and older must pass vision and road tests every five years.
 
Senate: Passed its bill with similar testing requirements, but the tests would be required every three years.
 
TEEN DRIVERS
 
House: Ban any cell phone use by those 18 and under.
 
Senate: Ditto.
 
REGISTRY NOTICES
 
House: Didn’t address the issue.
 
Senate: Passed an amendment that would require the Registry to again mail out reminders that a person’s license will soon expire – a practice that was ended last year to save money.
 
REGISTRY FEES
 
Gov. Patrick: He beat lawmakers to the punch Tuesday by rescinding $5 fees that went into effect Monday for some services done over the phone or in person at a branch, instead of online. Senate Republicans had planned to push an amendment to accomplish the same thing.
 
Nancy Reardon may be reached at [email protected]
 

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