Safe Driving Bill Approved by Massachusetts House of Representatives

On February 4, 2010, the House of Representatives in Massachusetts amended and approved a bill dealing with safe driving in the Commonwealth. If passed by the Massachusetts Senate, this bill will have a direct impact on the senior citizens of Massachusetts because it will require drivers over the age of 75 to renew their licenses every 5 years instead of every 10 years.

Issues concerning elderly driving have been in the news on and off for many years now, but after a series of accidents involving elder drivers last year, the state legislature is looking to make some changes. The current bill does not just involve seniors though. It also seeks to completely ban text messaging by all drivers, and it provides for higher penalties for drivers under the age of 18 who are caught using cell phones while driving.

eye-chartFor seniors, the requisite 5-year renewal will include passing a vision test that will be administered at the local branch of the registry of motor vehicles. However, the bill would permit the registrar to create regulations allowing seniors to submit a vision screening certificate, signed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist that asserts they meet the minimum vision requirements to hold a driver’s license.

This bill further seeks to allow health care providers to notify the registry of anyone over the age of 16 whose cognitive or functional impairments make it unsafe for them to drive. Decisions regarding whether to revoke a license will depend more on the effects of the cognitive or functional impairment, rather than simply on the diagnosis of such impairment. More detailed regulations will be drafted by the registry with the assistance of various health care professionals, and any reports filed under this section of the proposed law would remain confidential.

Finally, this bill seeks to codify a rule that drivers of any passenger vehicle shall not use mobile telephones, hands-free mobile telephones, or any other mobile electronic devices while driving on duty.This section was drafted in response to the rising number of accidents involving the T in recent years where drivers were text messaging, or using mobile electronic devices in other ways.

Now that the House has published and amended the safe driving bill, it moves on to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. State Senator Stephen M. Brewer, is one member of the Ways and Means Committee, and he represents parts of Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire, and Franklin. If you are interested in voicing your opinion on this bill, call Mr. Brewer at (617) 722-1540, or email him at here for the full text of the current bill.

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