S.2354– An Act relative to sight-seeing vehicle safety

Following the recent and tragic death of 28-year-old Allison Warmuth, attention has turned toward improving safety in the sight-seeing industry. Senator Brownsberger has filed a bill, S.2354 – An Act relative to sight-seeing vehicle safety, that aims to address these deficiencies and, in the process, make the streets safer.

Here’s a breakdown of the two major components of the bill:

The first part would prohibit the drivers of any type of sight-seeing vehicle from simultaneously acting as tour guides. This is very much in line with Massachusetts’ tough stance on distracted driving. State law prohibits operators of public transportation from using a cell phone in any way. Cell phone use for the average driver is also severely restricted. No driver is allowed to send emails or texts; moreover, the Senate passed a bill in January that would completely bar drivers from using their cell phones unless their devices are in a “hands-free” mode. Given these existing constraints, it is logical that drivers responsible for a large number of lives should not be allowed to divide their focus between the road and entertaining an audience.

The second part of the bill would mandate the installation of blind spot cameras and proximity sensors on amphibious vehicles (hybrids that can travel on land and water). The use of such vehicles is widespread in Massachusetts and beyond; but the problem with these ‘duck boats’—particularly models with lengthy bows—is that they have huge blind spots. The addition of cameras and sensors would aid drivers’ currently limited vision.

The two adjustments above are not only sensible but also feasible: there are already several touring companies that have put these ideas into practice. In Massachusetts alone, there are a number of sight-seeing businesses that separate the duties of driver and guide. These policies extend outside the Commonwealth: a company that runs in multiple states likewise divides the capacities of driver and guide. Another out-of-state company recently began fitting its amphibious vehicles with blind spot cameras and staffing its tours with two people in response to a 2011 accident, strikingly similar to Warmuth’s, that critically injured a motorcyclist.

As always, your feedback on this issue is welcome and appreciated.

Helen Sayegh
Legislative Intern
Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger

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